A $5-million building permit is expected to be issued any day now but preliminary work has already started at the future site of a six-storey Hampton Inn in Point Edward.
Workers have moved trailers and equipment onto the 1.8-acre property on Venetian Boulevard, between the Best Western Guildwood Inn and the Holiday Inn.
Construction will begin as soon as the building permit is received and the weather co-operates, said Corrine Nauta, Lambton County’s chief building official.
A site plan approved by village council in March shows a 95-room hotel with space for a separate restaurant in the future.
Hampton Inns approached the village as far back as 2009 and submitted two other site plans, said COO Jim Burns.
“I believe they are now anxious to get going,” he said. “Possibly, it’s related to improved market conditions.”
And that’s not the only good news for the village.
The Balmoral Tavern on Michigan Avenue, which has sat vacant since 2010, sold this month to a Sarnia businessman. He hasn’t announced what he’ll do with the historic building on Point Edward’s commercial strip, but everyone is hopeful, said Burns.
“We’re expecting something to happen there,” he said.
Meanwhile, village council has struck a $5.6-million budget for this year, increasing taxes by just over one percent.
About $1.5 million is earmarked for capital projects in 2015. That’s money primarily generated by proceeds from the Point Edward Casino.
Point Edward regularly receives about $2.2 million a year from casino revenues, which is substantial for a village with 2,200 residents, said Mayor Larry MacKenzie.
“It’s been 16 years that we’ve received casino money and it’s been significant for us,” he said. “The first year, it immediately lowered taxes 30% and we’ve been able to rely on it for most of our capital since.
“It’s helped in every way.”
This year, casino dollars will pay for resurfacing of Louisa, Charles and Ernest streets. Money will go into reserves for a future dump truck purchase, be put aside for a future emergency rescue vehicle, and go to engineering for major reconstruction of St. Clair Street. As well, $75,000 will go toward a new splash pad for Waterfront Park.
Casino revenue was down about 6% last year, but that’s likely because of major reconstruction on Venetian Blvd, said Burns.
A dramatic change in strategy is expected any time now, as reps with the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) said two years ago they want to privatize the operation of Ontario’s casinos.
They call it “modernization” and it entails Point Edward being packaged with five other casinos including those in Dresden, Woodstock, Hanover, and London.
The village is looking forward to modernization, said MacKenzie. The casinos need updating but tax dollars aren’t there to do it.
Private investment could boost revenues and spark more commercial development near the casinos, the mayor said.
Nothing has been built adjacent to Point Edward’s casino since it opened in 1999, even though a local company called Cantaqleigh proposed commercial and residential development.
Cantaqleigh owns property immediately north and south of the casino, but has done nothing except clear some of the land, he said.
“Maybe they’re waiting to see what this modernization will do.”