First hotel in Colwood is labour of love for Wansbroughs

Four decades ago, 11-year-old Lloyd Wansbrough handed out doughnuts and coffee to shoppers at his father’s new hardware store in Colwood.

Now he’s standing on the same site, this time waiting for the 80-room Holiday Inn Express to open on Nov. 2. The $11-million venture is Colwood’s only hotel and Wansbrough is franchise owner of hotel developer Westridge Lodging.

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The hotel is the latest project on the 3.85-acre site owned by the Wansbrough family company, which has spent $42 million developing the sloping piece of land along Wale Road. It includes the Lee Valley Tools, which opened in April 2009, the new Legacy rental apartment building next door to the hotel, fitness centres, restaurants and other businesses.

Building the 50,000-square-foot hotel was a matter of pride to Wansbrough, who expects the family’s next generation to remain part of the site’s operations. “There’s a lot of love and a lot of care and attention [in this],” said Wansbrough. Room prices will be “mid-level,” he said.

Wansbrough is anticipating business from guests coming to Colwood for events and competitions at the nearby Juan de Fuca Recreation Centre. The View Royal Casino and Royal Roads University are also in the neighbourhood as is the Department of National Defence — all huge operations that are very likely to support a hotel in their vicinities.

The closest large hotels in the area are the Sheraton and Westin Bear Mountain, both in Langford.

“In order to get people to come to the West Shore, and to Colwood in particular, you have to have a place for them to stay,” Wansbrough said.

Already, 107 reservations have come in, said hotel manager Jauline Markin.

The Legacy apartments and Holiday Inn Express site features 325 parking stalls, some in one-and two-level underground lots. The buildings rise to five storeys above ground.

A room next to the hotel’s underground parking will be used to store sports equipment, meaning guests won’t have to lug it up to their rooms, Wansbrough said.

No outdoor sound could be heard inside a top-floor room next to Wale Road during a tour this week. “We spent time and energy and money” to develop a quality building, Wansbrough said.

The hotel’s decor is the Holiday Inn Express’s new Formula Blue, one of the first to get this treatment.

Amenities include a business centre, conference room, 75-person classroom, pool, fitness centre, free use of bicycles and breakfast bar.

Lloyd Wansbrough said his late father, Bill Wansbrough, who opened the Cubbon home centre in the mid-1970s, was always community-oriented. The family has been planning the hotel for about a decade.

The Wansbrough family is ensuring the community has a presence. This includes a 900-square-foot outdoor site, with a pattern of paved bricks and potted trees, where an artisan’s market will be open on Wednesday evenings and Sundays starting in the spring.

The market will complement a 3,000-square-foot indoor space for the Coast Collective Art Centre, with a gallery, shop and lesson area.

Westridge is bearing the $100,000-plus cost of fixing up that area for the non-profit group, Wansbrough said. “We think the value of having them here will far outweigh the cost that we contribute.”

The Legacy building has another 10,000 square feet of ground floor space, with half to become a shared business centre, and the rest available for another tenant. As well, there’s 4,500 square feet of available warehouse space, Wansbrough said.

Developing the Wale Road site, with its variety of uses, has resulted in at least

175 full-time jobs, with about 15 in the hotel, Wansbrough said. The City of Colwood will receive $594,000 in annual property taxes, Wansbrough said, up from $65,000 in 2009 when redevelopment was starting.

Colwood Mayor Carol Hamilton predicts the hotel will be busy and said it will enhance that part of the municipality. As someone who was previously involved in group events at the recreation centre, “It was always a challenge when you are holding championships and special events and that sort of thing. Everybody had to stay downtown,” she said.

Hamilton expects other hotels will follow as growth continues in the West Shore.

Chemistry Consulting’s Frank Bourree did a feasibility study for the hotel and predicts Wansbrough “is going to do tremendous business. There’s just a shortage of well-positioned hotels there.”

Katharine Harrold, Royal Roads University’s vice-president of communications and advancement, is also welcoming the hotel, saying students will be able to stay there if the residence is full and it could be used for conference space.

West Shore Chamber of Commerce executive director Julie Lawlor said the hotel will “prove very popular and very useful. I think there is going to be a spin off for the businesses nearby, many of which are in walking distance from the Holiday Inn.”

cjwilson@timescolonist.com

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