New owner plans to turn around problem motel

A Kamloops-based hotelier is the new owner of the Connaught Motor Inn.

In an interview Wednesday, Ron Mundi said the Connaught will continue to be operated as a motel but in a decidedly different fashion than under the previous ownership.

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It was closed down in July 2016 because it had become a magnet for crime. In the 18 months prior to the move, RCMP had received more than 700 calls for service at the motel, most related to drugs, prostitution and theft. A dramatic drop in crime was noticed in the aftermath.

Rather than allowing month-long stays, as had been the previous practice, Mundi said it will cater to people intending to stay for one or two nights. Staff will exercise the motel's right to turn clients away, he added.

"If they know they are going to be trouble, they're not going to be rented to," Mundi said.

According to the company website, Mundi Hotel Enterprises Inc. owns 11 properties ranging from high end - like The Coast Kamloops Hotel and Conference Centre - to the budget. And Mundi said he and his 450 or so employees have extensive experience reviving properties that have taken a turn for the worse.

Indeed, Mundi said he bought a motel in Kamloops two years ago from the same people who previously owned the Connaught after it too had run into similar trouble.

"That's a coincidence but when I heard who owns the property, I knew what the problem was," Mundi said. "The problem is not the property, the problem is not the location. The problem, I'm sorry to say, is how they ran it. There has to be better management there."

A crew was busy this week cleaning out the rooms and filling dumpsters. Mundi said he bought the site for $3.5 million and will spend a further $1.5 million getting it into shape and intends to get it up in running in three months at the latest.

Along with completely furnishings in the rooms, the restaurant will be converted into a lobby for the 93-room motel for which rates will be in the $89 to $99 range.

It's not the only poker Mundi has in the Prince George fire.

Pending final approval by city council of a bylaw to close a stretch of Sixth Avenue between Quebec and Dominion Streets and a concurrent sale of adjacent city-owned land, he plans to build a 95-room hotel on the site at a cost of about $15 million.

It will effectively replace the Days Inn, which will be leveled to make way for a new Four Seasons swimming pool.

Even with the new Marriott Courtyard Hotel nearing completion next to the downtown library and a Pomeroy Inn and Suites under construction next to the Prince George Playhouse, Mundi said there still is a market in the city for another hotel, noting occupancy rose four per cent last year.

Council passed the road closure bylaw through first and second readings on March 5 and, because it's located within 800 metres of an arterial highway, the item was forwarded to the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure for approval.

In an email sent Wednesday, a Ministry spokesperson said it has received and reviewed the city's application, "and has not raised any concerns regarding impacts to the nearby provincial highways.

"The decision on how to move forward with this road closure is now with the City of Prince George."

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