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Snuneymuxw blessing marks opening of new conference centre hotel in Nanaimo

Ribbon-cutting ceremony was held this week at Courtyard by Marriott
Snuneymuxw Chief Mike Wyse speaks about the cultural and economic significance of the new Courtyard by Marriott Hotel to the Snuneymuxw First Nation. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)

Courtyard by Marriott has made the opening of Nanaimo’s newest hotel official.

Located at 100 Gordon St., next to the Vancouver Island Conference Centre, Courtyard by Marriott Nanaimo hosted its grand opening Wednesday, May 31, when it welcomed representatives from the City of Nanaimo, the business community for the event that included speeches and a ribbon-cutting that followed dance performances, song and blessings from Snuneymuxw First Nation.

The 172-room hotel, which broke ground in 2020, is a collaboration between Snuneymuxw First Nation and PEG Companies real estate investment and development group. Other partners included the City of Nanaimo, Omicron Construction and Nexxi Building Solutions.

“As the majority owner of the hotel, we celebrate the opportunity to share Snuneymuxw culture with visitors from all over the world while supporting the economic growth of our nation and the local community,” said Snuneymuxw Chief Mike Wyse, in a press release. “By investing in Nanaimo’s hospitality industry, we have created local jobs and established essential infrastructure that benefits a growing tourism sector.”

Nanaimo Mayor Leonard Krog noted that it although it has only been three years since ground was broken for the hotel project, having a hotel built next to the Vancouver Island Conference Centre was more than a decade in the making.

“The city appreciates the confidence PEG and Snuneymuxw First Nation are showing in our economy … We know this hotel will help us grow our leisure and business tourism markets in a big way,” Krog said.

PEG, based in Utah, overcame a number of hurdles while building the hotel through the COVID-19 pandemic, which created labour shortages, raised construction costs and created travel restrictions.

“We appreciate the great trust the community of Nanaimo placed in us as its development partner of choice, and we learned a lot while persevering through the challenging market conditions and exercising our value engineering capabilities,” said Robert Schmidt, chief investment officer who oversaw the hotel’s development and construction.

PEG partnered with Vancouver-based Nexxi Building Solutions Inc., which used low-carbon, concrete alternative exterior panels – a new technique that sped up construction, reduced climate impact and on-site construction waste, the release noted.

The hotel is located on the site where the Snuneymuxw people cared for the now-extinct wool dogs, which had coats that provided wool for clothing. To recognize the significance of the site, Snuneymuxw art is integrated throughout the hotel, including in its guest rooms and public spaces. Ay Lelum – The Good House of Design worked with the PEG and Marriott team. Featured Snuneymuxw artists include Joel Good, William Good, Sandra Moorhouse-Good, Aunalee Boyd-Good, Sophia Seward-Good, and Thea Harris.

“Our goal was to create an immersive and one-of-a-kind experience that celebrates Snuneymuxw culture and the unique history of the land on which the hotel is located,” said Aunalee Boyd-Good in the press release. “Our family of artists is honoured to share the profound connection between art, place and history with hotel guests.”

The hotel has, so far, hired 55 employees, many of whom are members of the Snuneymuxw First Nation.

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