The City of Port Alberni is giving the derelict Arrowview Hotel two more weeks before proceeding with demolition, in the hopes that someone will purchase the property.
The city agreed to proceed with demolition of the hotel almost a year ago. The preliminary cost estimate for safe demolition, including asbestos removal, was $400,000. The city has now received three bids, ranging from $435,000 to $663,000, with local contractor Bowerman Excavating submitting the lowest bid.
As director of engineering Wilf Taekema explained during a council meeting on Monday, July 8, the intent is to complete demolition of the basement, following removal of the top three floors, but further engineering will be required because of the adjoining city sidewalks and streets.
Some work took place in the basement in 2017 to make it structurally safe for hazardous materials removal and abatement, but Taekema said the building has “deteriorated a lot” in two years.
Taekema explained that these “unknowns” drove up the cost, as well as WorkSafe BC requirements and concerns about protecting nearby businesses, streets and sidewalks. He estimated that the total cost to complete remediation of the site could exceed $600,000.
“It’s obviously more than what we envisioned a year ago,” he admitted. “We will work with the engineers to see exactly what’s required once the top three floors are gone.”
The money will come out of the city’s Land Sales Reserve, which held $850,000 at the end of 2018.
“So there is enough money there to undertake this,” Taekema explained.
The owner of the Arrowview Hotel, Ray Letourneau, will be invoiced following the demolition and will have 30 days to pay. If he is unable to pay, the cost will go to taxes in arrears. If not paid within three years, the property will go up for tax sale. If no one bids on it, it will become city property.
Mayor Sharie Minions noted that she was happy to see that the low bidder is a local contractor, but said she would like to wait for an extra two weeks in case someone steps up to purchase the property.
In late 2018, a house on Second Avenue was slated for demolition at the city’s expense, but a last-minute buyer was able to purchase the property and demolish it at a lower cost.
Minions admitted that this is “unlikely” to happen with the Arrowview Hotel, but wanted to give potential buyers another opportunity.
“Nobody wants to pay this,” she said. “I think at the end of the day, as much as we want to see this building come down, it is still a difficult amount to put on city taxpayers.”
Councillor Ron Paulson disagreed with waiting any longer. “We’ve been dealing with this for five years and for me, I’m talked out about it,” he said. “We’ve been stalled and put off through this process, and it has to come down. It’s a bad building that’s waiting for something to happen.”
The motion to award the demolition contract to Bowerman Excavating was defeated in a 4-3 vote.
It will be brought back to the next council meeting, on Monday, July 22, for reconsideration.