Courier editorials – Hotels and affordable housing; how one is good for the other

When we published a short news story last week updating our readers on the current timeline for the new hotel being built in St. Stephen, I knew it would garner a substantial amount of attention, particularly online.

The hotel has been in the works for near as makes no difference to a decade, and with that timeline comes many naysayers who are committed to disdain for the project, regardless of its current status.

The fact is the hotel, while behind its original construction timeline is moving forward; evidence of which can literally be seen by standing at the fence of the construction site. The ire the project draws is interesting to me; I’m not sure why people think finding the funding for a project of that magnitude is simple, or finding an already established chain with which to work.

Last year we reported the hotel was expected to open for July 1, 2022 and as of last week’s update, we know for certain (which we could have guessed by looking at the site) that date will come and go without a ribbon cutting. The expected date of completion is now May to June of 2023, and honestly, it makes sense. Between COVID related shut-downs and the additional expense that comes with winter construction (concrete best sets between 40 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit) I get it.

But delays aside, ground has been broken, crews have been onsite. The project is moving ahead and is a project the Town of St. Stephen both supports and is looking forward to having available.

But don’t mistake me; the Town of St. Stephen is not funding the building of this project. The town has offered supports in ways such as the land on which the hotel will sit, but the municipality is not the project manager, not the bank-roller, not the power behind the crown. There seemed to be confusion in the comment section of the Courier Facebook page.

The other fact is St. Stephen needs the hotel. It may not have happened for a long time (two years) but the Garcelon Civic Center has been a hotspot for weekend hockey tournaments and events like the St. Stephen Kiwanis Trade Show. We even had the pleasure of Blue Rodeo gracing the GCC stage, and I can remember people wanting to purchase tickets, but not being able to find a place to stay to do so.

Families will be able to come for the weekend for the aforementioned hockey tournaments. And when they come for the weekend, they spend money in town. The hotel will allow for a better tourist trade, and encourage people to hang their hats here, even if it’s only overnight.

Bottom line is this hotel, on time or not, is good for the town and the region. Growth is always good; providing the infrastructure is in place to support it.

There were those commenting on our Facebook page that what’s needed is affordable housing, not a hotel. My response is why do you assume it’s either/or? The hotel is being built with private funds as a business venture which will benefit the region. Affordable housing is created normally with the assistance of government funds and aid, and can absolutely be created alongside a hotel. And the jobs the hotel will bring will in turn assist those who may have struggled to find work locally.

As the town grows and prospers, so investment makes its way to the region and in that investment can come better housing options. When we say ‘save the whales’ that doesn’t mean ‘and screw the dolphins’. What’s good for one can be good for the other.

My final point is this; if affordable housing is at the top of your priority list, what are you doing to facilitate it aside from clacking on your keyboard? What assistance have you applied for to move on a project? Have you reached out to the MLA or MP to access provincial or federal funding for low income housing projects?

Growth, be it a hotel, a restaurant, or a pet store is good for the town, and good for the region. And it’s great to see.

Krisi Marples