Victoria yacht marina on market four years after it was built, as pandemic leaves slips empty

Facing a second consecutive season of empty slips, the ­owners of Victoria International Marina have put the four-year-old property on the market.

A listing for the luxury yacht marina, built for vessels between 65 and 165 feet in length, went public Tuesday night. No sale price was published, but Chris Rust, vice-president with commercial real estate firm CBRE Victoria, said there were calls and requests for tours within 24 hours of the listing going live.

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Craig Norris, chief executive of Community Marine Concepts, which operates the marina on the Songhees in Vic West, said his phone has been ringing off the hook since Tuesday evening.

“People are interested in looking and it may spur some of the people who have been ­looking at it to make something happen,” he said.

Norris said he had been ­soliciting interest from potential investors and owners over the last year on behalf of the ­marina’s ownership group. He said that led to discussions among the two families that own the property about selling part or all of the marina.

Norris said he could only speculate on what eventually led to the decision to offer the entire project for sale.

“I can only imagine that after a year of COVID there may be some investor fatigue, or maybe they just wanted to put their money elsewhere.”

Last year was initially expected to be a financially ­successful one for the marina — at one point, it had 180 reservations on the books — but turned into a disaster as the entire American side of the business dried up in the face of border and other travel restrictions.

Facing another year of empty slips at the marina, Norris said he has laid off half the staff, which is now down to seven people.

Built for $35 million, Victoria International Marina opened a limited operation in 2018, and in 2019, when it was fully operational, hosted about 90 vessels.

Last year, the marina booked more than double that number of vessels, hoping to build its reputation among yachting ­circles.

Norris said the right buyer will see the potential in a ­start-up marina that has been building its business every year.

“It takes about five years for a new marina to get up to speed and build trust,” he said. “And it will take some time [to rebuild]. So finding someone with patience and someone local would be ideal.”

The offering includes the fully functioning marina with 28 slips for large yachts, nearly 3,000 linear feet of concrete-and-steel floats and amenities including a restaurant — the Boom and Batten, which has a lease until 2029 — and a marina building. The latter offers services and amenities for yacht owners, their guests and crews, including office space, retail space, boardrooms, and a crew club with a lounge, fitness studio and showers.

Rust said the marina offers the right buyer a great opportunity, given the lack of available moorage on the Island and in Vancouver, adding the facility was just starting to hit its stride before the COVID-19 pandemic hit last year.

The offering is open-ended, with no deadline on potential offers.

Rust believes a buyer will come from within the province, as commercial real estate has been a hot commodity over the last year.

“It’s active on all fronts,” he said. “With interest rates where they are, a lot of people are making investments now. The capital is out there and looking to put money in commercial real estate.”

Qualified buyers who sign a confidentiality agreement will get access to a secure data room and be able to review the leases, construction drawings, floor plans, building details and marina specifications.

“There’s been a good amount of interest, but it does require a very particular type of buyer,” said Rust, noting the marina was built to exacting standards and it’s likely a buyer will be a high-net-worth individual.

aduffy@timescolonist.com

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