Oak Bay Beach Hotel (almost) ready to welcome guests

Owner Kevin Walker has put his heart and soul into the refurbished 100-room hotel and condo

After years of anticipation and delays

After years of anticipation and delays

Bricks and polished stone with the occasional tudor peak are visible from behind the scaffolding on Beach Drive. Kevin Walker promises the newly developed Oak Bay Beach Hotel will be unveiled shortly.

The tudor peaks are a nod to the former hotel, while more historic surprises await inside.

Kate’s Cafe, which will front on Beach Drive, opens with the original doorway from the hotel, right down to the fittings used in 1927. Inside the cafe hand hewn beams and a large brick fireplace bring the former third-floor library back to life. It’s among 95 per cent of the old building repurposed or recycled on the new project, says hotelier Walker.

“A lot of that is because we took the time to take it down,” he said. It took six months to dismantle the old hotel; six years for he and wife Shawna to develop the new one.

The project was first mired in community concerns, then expected to open last May as the venue for the 25th anniversary of the David Foster Foundation’s Miracle Weekend. The roof was delayed, which pushed the drywall behind schedule and eventually nixed the Foster foundation event.

“Delays are very expensive, but we’re still on budget,” Walker said of the $52 million hotel and condominium project.

The 100-room hotel and 20 luxury residences are rebuilt on the same oceanfront lot the previous hotel habited at 1175 Beach Dr. Amenities include seaside mineral pools, a fitness centre, Boathouse Spa and Baths, The Snug pub, the David Foster Foundation Theatre and a fine-dining restaurant. Staff will increase from the former 75 to about 120.

Hotel suites will also be sold as vacation condos.

“It was our solution to a very difficult economic environment. It made the difference from all other (projects) that hit the ditch,” Walker said. They’re about 25 per cent sold (50 per cent of what’s been released to date), he said. “Right now is exceedingly busy.”

The average sale is about $1,500 per square foot.

Kate’s Café, the Oak Bay Beach Hotel’s street-side café, is set to welcome its first guests for the Thanksgiving weekend.

A grand opening date has not been announced.

Plant repatriation

When the original Oak Bay Beach Hotel was deconstructed, Kevin and Shawna Walker moved a number of fully grown plants, including 50-year-old rhododendrons, from the hotel’s seaside garden to their farm on the Saanich Peninsula. Many of these mature plants will be returned to the property to be reincorporated in the landscaping.