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Boot land prime site for redevelopment

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The six-acre Shoestring Lodge and Boot Pub property has always been a hotspot for developers, the municipality and partiers alike.

But after operating as a pub, hostel, restaurant and Cold Beer and Wine Store throughout the past 11 years, a Vancouver-based development company has bought the prime piece of Whistler real estate.

"We identified the property years ago," said Hani Lammam, development and acquisitions officer with Cressey Developments.

The deal was done in early August but it will be a few months before the company decides how they will redevelop the land.

"It would be premature to say right now," said Lammam.

"I don’t have a sense of what the timeframes are going to be."

Located at the corner of Highway 99 and Nancy Greene Way, the Boot property is just a short walk to the village.

Even the municipality looked at buying the land at one point.

"We’ve had that site on our list of potential privately held sites for ages," said Tim Wake, general manager of the Whistler Housing Authority.

"That’s a fabulous place for employee housing.

"It’s a great opportunity because they have more land than they have development rights."

A portion of the six-acre land is zoned for tourist accommodation and includes 200 bed units.

The Shoestring Lodge uses only half of those bed units. The remaining half have yet to be developed.

Ben Horne, who owned the property for the past 11 and a half years, said he was sad to see it go.

"Everyone has to have a time when they step back and let go of their baby," he said.

"The real motivation is due to the fact that there are six acres of prime real estate," said Horne, adding the lodge, pub and restaurant aren’t totally maximizing the potential revenue on that site.

"And the reality is as land values improve in Whistler, it becomes impractical to stay in a company that isn’t maximizing the available revenue..."

More than 11 years ago Horne, along with a partner, set out to create a budget hostel in an expensive resort.

"We had looked at this site, having both worked in Australia in the backpackers industry, and we liked the idea of bringing backpackers to a big resort in Canada," he said.

"We want to make it a quality destination for budget travellers in the ski world, a budget resort if you like."

The Shoestring Lodge, which was originally the Ski Boot Motel, was built in the 1960s, when skiing centred around Creekside and long before there was a Whistler Village.

Cressey Developments, the new owners of the lodge, have a history of all kinds of development, from hotels, to residential, retail, mixed use and industrial. The company developed the Westin Resort and Spa in Whistler about three years ago.

"It’s an opportunity to develop in Whistler which is a place where we have done well in the past," said Lammam. The businesses on the site will continue to function for the time being while the company looks at feasibility studies for the area.

But as for what will eventually be there, Horne said that remains to be seen.

"That’s all up in the air in terms of negotiating a comprehensive redevelopment plan with the municipality," he said. "There’s lots of opportunity there."

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