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Millennium in danger of default on Nanaimo hotel contract

The company whose financial troubles are under scrutiny in Vancouver has missed many deadlines on another major B.C. project.

Millennium Development is under contract to build a 170-room hotel in Nanaimo as part of a complex public-private partnership that includes a conference centre, two arenas and a museum. Nanaimo city manager Jerry Berry said the company has “missed a variety” of starting deadlines for the hotel.

“It would have been our aspiration the hotel was well under construction [by now] and nearing completion,” said Berry. Representatives of the company were at a design panel meeting this week, he said, and still say the hotel will be finished by the 2010 deadline set in the contract with the city. “That's getting to be seen to be difficult if they don't start soon.”

After the November 15 municipal election, he said, the new city council will have to decide whether or not to find Millennium in default on its contract.

Berry said he has been following media reports on Millennium's problems in Vancouver, and the Nanaimo project is different in several ways. Unlike in Vancouver, he said, Nanaimo is not guaranteeing any loans to Millennium, the company isn't hoping to recover money through sales of land or real estate, and all agreements are open for public scrutiny.

“All of our stuff has been, and is, open,” he said. He was unfamiliar with Vancouver's charter, he said, but “in the rest of B.C., P-3 agreements have to be approved publicly. There is no in camera information.”

Another difference is the risk is much smaller in Nanaimo than in Vancouver, Berry said. “If Millennium doesn't start the hotel it's unfortunate, but not cataclysmic,” he said. “We don't need to have one. Vancouver obviously needs to have an athlete's village . . . they're half-way under construction and need to complete.”

As he put it, “We're not halfway pregnant.”

And as Vancouver is showing, getting un-pregnant can be very expensive.

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Reach him here.

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