It’s been several months since their official sod-turning ceremony and in the interim, many local residents may have been wondering when they’d be seeing some construction at a new hotel project on Rimbey’s western edge, but after some last-minute financial restructuring, work on the new Best Western hotel is back on track, albeit well behind schedule.
The original plan for the hotel complex was to have the entire structure constructed in China and then shipped and trucked to Rimbey where it was to be erected in a very short period of time compared to traditional construction techniques, thus saving the project a substantial amount of investment, however those plans have now been altered dramatically and that means good news for the local economy.
“On our end here we did everything we could to make this pre-fabricated metal structure possible – the one that was coming from China. We got the prices in, they were looking good, everything was in order then some conditions changed on the other end and we just weren’t happy with the new terms – they were just ridiculous, so we pretty much severed ties,” said Project Manager and Superintendent Jason Acorn. “Right from the get-go, they understood how it works here in Canada with mortgages and how payments work and that was understood right up until almost 10 or 12 months later when everything was being designed and they sort of reneged on that and said they wanted a whole chunk of money up front for material and labour.”
Acorn said the originally agreed amount of money down is a rather small amount when compared to the project’s total cost however all the parties had agreed on the unspecified amount. However that changed quickly and it didn’t necessarily have anything to do with the downturn in the global economy.
“The amount of money they wanted after was just ridiculous and there was no way we could invest all that money into another country without having any product, so it was pretty risky,” Acorn said. “I don’t think it had a whole lot to do with the economy and that’s one of the reasons why we were pushed back. We had a cost analysis done a few months ago and then when everything turned sour in the economy all over the world, we needed to know where our Canadian dollar was sitting with the (Chinese) Yen and it was still looking very favourable for us and was within budget. We really did our best to try to make it happen.”
No matter what the reasons were behind the increased demand for cash up front, which Acorn estimated to be as much as ten times the original amount, he made it very clear that the antagonist in this story most certainly wasn’t the obvious choice.
“I don’t know if there was a bit of dishonestly involved or if it was miscommunication, but on our side we were pretty clear about what had to happen and what had to be in place and they just failed to provide that for us,” he said. “Just so your readers know, the exporter that we were dealing with is from here in Alberta so really, it wasn’t any hang-ups with any people in China, it was a guy we were partnershipped with here in Alberta. But we’ve severed ties with him 100 per cent.”
With the blueprints for the project currently being reworked to accommodate for the switch from a predominantly metal building to one constructed of wood, Acorn said only minor changes will be required with no additional work needed on the foundation.
“The only components that really have to be changed are what makes up the walls. Now we’ll be going with wood instead of steel,” he said. “There’s no floor panels so we’ll be changing over to a joist system so there’s a little more load bearing. We have to deal with but other than that, all the steels is still staying and we’re going to make that work.”
With the agreement falling apart, Acorn said there was a bit of urgency to get the project back on track and make the best of a bad situation, which, in the long-run, could turn out to be a blessing in disguise.
“The Chinese connection was solely the material and the warehouse. It all had to do with some Albertans,” he said. “There’s been lost money but the biggest loss for us was the lost man-hours and now I’m a good two or three months behind with the same deadline. But there are a lot of positives that are coming out of this. It’s increased the amount of work here in Alberta and the trades are very happy to see that we’re tendering out work so there’s a lot of happy people here.”
Happy people indeed.
Acorn said while the current economic downturn is bad news for most; there is a silver lining to that cloud that could be very beneficial to both the developers and the community as a whole.
“It’s just a perfect time for us to build,” he said. “Prices are down, the trades have also come down with their prices, people are sort of scrambling for work again – I’m used to sort of bending over backwards and being at the mercy of the trades with their quotes and tenders, but now it’s sort of switched back to the builder where I have the upper hand and I can pick and choose. It’s more competitive out there, which is really good for us.”
While the time schedule for the completion of the 60-room hotel has been thrown into disarray because of the breakdown in the original agreement, Acorn said it’s all in the past and everyone involved is happy to see some progress finally being made at the site and they’re still aiming for their same completion date being sometime this August.
“We’re really positive and I’m overjoyed to be moving on,” he said. “I know how the wood-framed buildings go up so there’s nothing hidden and I know what to expect. I’m really looking forward to getting it up and going.”
As an extra, added bonus, Acorn said now that the structure will be built in Alberta as opposed to China, employment opportunities and tendering contracts would be awarded within the local area as much as possible.
“I have tendered out to the local companies and would definitely like to keep things local. A lot of my tendering has been issued already but I think I’ve made a real conscious effort to contact a lot of the local businesses,” he said. “I know some of them aren’t big enough to handle this but I’ve got to get them in here and have a chat, and then I’ll decide.”
The new hotel will feature a swimming pool complete with a waterslide and hot tub, as well as a 100-seat convention centre, 12 kitchenette rooms and parking able to accommodate semi truck-trailers.