Kevin and Shawna Walker got a fitting first birthday present for their Oak Bay Beach Hotel on Wednesday, as the impressive facility on Beach Drive won the Judges’ Choice Award for overall excellence at the Victoria Real Estate Board’s 22nd Annual Commercial Building Awards.
The Walkers are throwing a big birthday bash this weekend to celebrate the $52-million hotel remake — the largest construction project in Oak Bay’s history and a labour of love for the family over the past eight years.
The Judges’ Choice Award was icing on the birthday cake.
“The Oak Bay Beach Hotel showed exemplary creativity in design and architecture for best use of a challenging property footprint. This project is a stunning improvement over the old hotel, while maintaining its former charm and serving the community,” said Mike Lagadyn, chairman of the commercial division of the Victoria Real Estate Board during the presentation.
It was one of 16 awards presented, honouring excellence in new and renovated commercial developments completed in the past year.
The Times Colonist Community Award was presented to CFB Esquimalt Base Fire Hall and Emergency Response Centre at CFB Esquimalt while the Victoria Real Estate Board’s Green Award went to Uptown Shopping Centre.
To be eligible, all commercial new or renovation projects must have been completed between June 1, 2012 and May 31, 2013.
Competition judges, who are selected from Victoria’s business community, look at the overall exterior of each building or development project and how it fits into the surrounding area.
They base their final decisions on projects that are sensitive to the environment, are aesthetically pleasing and answer a specific developmental need within the community.
The Walker family said the past year has seen milestones in real estate sales, higher-than-expected hotel occupancy and successful food, beverage and spa services. The hotel is set to welcome the public for an anniversary celebration on Sunday with a series of celebratory events in the hotel’s food and beverage outlets and spa, tours of the hotel guest rooms and penthouse, and a special anniversary tea featuring the Victoria Philharmonic Choir. Other events are planned Friday and Saturday.
On the real estate side, the hotel offered 65 of its 100 hotel suites and 20 private residences for sale.
With more than $30 million in sales since the hotel started selling units, the average price per square foot has remained at about $1,000 for hotel residences and $1,500 for private residences.
Eleven private residences and 30 hotel residences remain for sale.
Kevin Walker said the biggest challenge in selling real estate over the past year is that what was once promoted as “recreational real estate” no longer exists. Instead, purchasing a residential or vacation property within a hotel or resort is being referred to as a lifestyle purchase.
“This type of investment is not about making money. Instead, it is about investing in quality of life and the amenities owning a hotel suite offers,” said Walker.
“Therefore, to make this type of real estate investment appealing we have to run a first class hotel operation. That has been our focus since we opened our doors.”
The hotel’s focus on the guest experience saw it rise from 57 (the lowest) of all hotels in Victoria on the TripAdvisor website last December, to second within nine months.
It was also awarded the TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence, placing it in the top 10 per cent of all tourism businesses worldwide, based on guest satisfaction.
The average room rate for the year was $213.90 with the summer months at $262.43.
The return of The Snug pub, combined with dinner theatre, The Dining Room and Kate’s Café saw the hotel serve about 187,300 guests over the 12 month period.
Kevin Walker, who has been involved in the hotel industry for more than four decades, will be inducted into the Canadian Tourism Hall of Fame on Dec. 4 in Ottawa with Victoria Regent Hotel general manager Earl Wilde.
- - -
VICTORIA COMMERCIAL REAL ESTATE AWARDS
Community: CFB Esquimalt Base Fire Hall and Emergency Response Centre
Condominium: Coho, 280 Wilfert Road
Hotel: Oak Bay Beach Hotel, 1175 Beach Dr.
Industrial: Thrifty Foods Retail Support Centre, 1893 Mills Rd.
Mixed-Use: Tyndall Village, 4343 Tyndall Ave.
Office: FortisBC Victoria area operations centre, 1027 Langford Parkway
Office-Retail: The Paragon Building, 1590 Cedar Hill Cross Rd.
Restaurant: Bin4 Burger Lounge Westshore, 102-716 Goldstream Ave.
Retail-Renovation: Langford Centre, 730-780 Goldstream Ave.
Shopping Centre: Uptown Shopping Centre
Community: B.C. Ambulance dispatch/communications centre, 2764 Leigh Road
Condominium: McKenzie Walk, 976, 980, 982 McKenzie Ave.
Mixed-Use: Seaport West Shops and Residences, 9820 Seaport Place
Times Colonist Community Award: CFB Esquimalt Base Fire Hall and Emergency Response Centre
Victoria Real Estate Board Green Award: Uptown Shopping Centre
Judges’ Choice Award: Oak Bay Beach Hotel
> For more information on the awards, visit cba.vreb.org