Workers tear down the outside of the Arrowview Hotel in March of 2017. KARLY BLATS PHOTO

Vancouver engineer plans to rebuild derelict hotel in Port Alberni

Arrowview Hotel has been abandoned following a 2015 fire

The historic Arrowview Hotel has been a city eyesore for many years, but its new owner has plans to restore it.

Ray Letourneau was in Port Alberni council chambers on Tuesday, Oct. 10 to present his plans as the new owner of the Arrowview Hotel.

Letourneau, from Vancouver, is an engineer working in technology, who has spent the last six years developing career opportunities for companies like Cisco and Apple. He has developed a model that he calls a “small community economic strategy” and has been looking at various communities in British Columbia to employ this model.

Letourneau learned about the Arrowview property through the Community Charter process city council was undertaking.

The building has been abandoned for several years and in a state of disrepair. The city entered into a land exchange agreement with hotel owner Dean Johnson in March of this year, but the agreement was contingent upon full environmental abatement and demolition of the building to the city’s satisfaction. When the city determined demolition had halted in May, council decided to proceed under the Community Charter to declare the building a hazard and a nuisance and acquire the property themselves.

READ: Author Glen A. Mofford profiles the history of the Arrowview Hotel

“I’ve been looking at Port Alberni as a place I’d maybe like to use,” said Letourneau. “When I [saw] that property, I looked at where its location was in the city, I looked at the strategy of the city and so forth. I see myself as using this property as the core of the model.”

Essentially, Letourneau wants to restore the former Arrowview Hotel and create his business within it, with a conference space, offices and residences.

His purchase of the property from Johnson hasn’t been finalized yet, but it should be completed by this week, he said.

He confirmed that he has been in discussion with engineers and contractors to determine what needs to be done to improve both the structure and the image of the building.

“First and foremost is to move forward as soon as possible,” said Letourneau. “You’re looking at it as an eyesore. I feel that’s the most contentious issue.”

Councillor Chris Alemany said he was excited by Letourneau’s plan. “We were expecting to have to pull the building down,” he said. “Without a huge amount of detail, it’s hard to know what to expect, but I think this could be exactly the type of thing we’d like to see in terms of the redevelopment of a major city block.”

He did add that there are a number of concerns around the building, and wondered out loud if the building is “too far gone.”

Councillor Ron Paulson was also concerned about the safety of the building to pedestrians and local traffic. “That would make me feel better, if I knew that building had integrity,” he said.

Letourneau confirmed that the integrity of the structure is strong enough for people to work in.

Remedial action against the owner of the Arrowview Hotel—whoever that may be—is still marked as a “high priority” item on the city’s current status report, but director of development services Scott Smith confirmed that remedial action does include fixing the building. This will continue to be an item on the status report, even if the building changes owners.

Letourneau said he is ready to proceed with the restoration as soon as possible, but just wanted a green light from council.

“I believe my model requires participation,” said Letourneau. “There’s no point for me to be pushing an agenda when it’s not really the agenda of the city.”

elena.rardon@albernivalleynews.com