The new owners of the Green Lantern Hotel in Chemainus say they’re in it for the long haul.
And the long haul began immediately for Jan Frederik Ludvik and his business partner Martin Syrovatka after the purchase of the historic hotel on Chemainus Road from longtime owner Dave Prakash took effect on April 17 following a long period of negotiations and remediation. Ludvik says seven 40-yard bins were filled with debris he hauled out of the building, amounting to $18,000 worth of garbage.
“There was food everywhere,” said Ludvik.
This is not a tear-down project, but a major fix-up that will take about a year turnaround after getting the necessary permits, he estimates.
“It’s something we heard about a little while ago. We saw some potential to it. We thought this might be an opportunity. We saw it would be a tremendous amount of work. The price looked like it made sense.
“It’s going to be really good. It’s going to be a healthy breath of fresh air.”
Their plan is to revitalize the hotel rooms upstairs into housing units and fix up the pub area so it’s available for someone to possibly operate in a lease agreement.
Currently based in Qualicum Beach the last 10 years, Ludvik is still a young enough man turning 40 on June 9 to have long-term visions for projects. He previously attended UVic and lived and worked in Victoria and Vancouver.
Ludvik is the hands-on operations man who does the physical work himself and Syrovatka is the business person behind the scenes who takes care of the abundant paperwork.
“We buy old buildings and we fix them up,” explained Ludvik.
The Green Lantern project, specifically, is totally in keeping with their visions. The approximate square footage is 13,000 that could provide around 15 good-sized one and two bedroom rental apartments if the entire building is utilized for that purpose.
“It’s going to create housing in an area that’s needed and at a cheaper price than if it was new,” Ludvik indicated. “Definitely love and respect the community. We’re going to keep it a green building and make sure to preserve the historic nature of it. We’re figuring things out as we go along.”
Just seeing Ludvik on site has generated a great deal of interest from the public about what’s going to happen there.
“A lot of people are asking about it,” he noted. “We want to participate in the community. We think it’s cool. Hopefully we can figure out a way to earn a living doing it.”
North Cowichan Councillor Chris Istace, who lives in Chemainus, is among those who’ve paid a visit to Ludvik to talk about the project. Istace is a big proponent of sustainable communities where people can live and work close to amenities with minimal use of vehicles and impact on the environment.
Ludvik and Syrovatka are in the housing business and not in the business of operating the pub portion of the establishment. “If a big pub wants to come and rent it, we’re open,” said Ludvik.
The Crestwood Townhomes at 1094 Marchmont St. in Duncan were also recently purchased by Ludvik and Syrovatka as well as the decrepit six townhouse unit that had only one person still living there on York Road next to the Island Health Overdose Prevention Site that are major fix-ups in the same vein as the Green Lantern.
The aim for the York Road complex is to “make it livable and attractive,” Ludvik added.
With respect to Chemainus, Ludvik identifies many similarities to Qualicum Beach that has undergone an extensive transformation over the years through renovations, repaintings and the rejuvenation of buildings downtown.
“It started going in the right direction,” said Ludvik. “Qualicum was not clean and it’s looking a million times better.”
He sees Chemainus going in the same direction, with strong infrastructure from the municipality already in place with the grand entrance into town from the south.
“Chemainus is amazing – Crofton, Ladysmith, Chemainus, Duncan,” said Ludvik. “There’s a lot of potential.”
And he feels the Green Lantern fix-up will fit the bill for the community.
“This is the most salt of the earth, bread and butter situation that exists,” Ludvik enthused. “I’m going to turn it into really nice residential units. It’s going to increase the tax base. It’s a win-win for everybody.”
Dealing with architects on how to get the proper floor plans and connecting with the community are the priorities for the short term.
The start of any project can always be somewhat imposing but the product that results at the end – “when you finish it and it looks amazing,” he said – is what keeps him going.
“It’s hugely satisfying after the pain you go through to come up with the money to buy a building and it’s in the worst shape ever. You make it work and everybody’s happy.
“The reward in completing is really big. It’s not a money thing.”