When Alex Watson closes his eyes and imagines what the Sooke Harbour House could become, he envisions a boutique destination resort.
“The trick is that it obviously needs a little bit of work,” said Watson, the chief operating officer of IAG Enterprises Ltd., a North Vancouver real estate company that recently bought the historic property for $5.632 million.
“We’re coming in cold, so we have to go through each room, figuring out what needs to be done.”
The sale of the one-hectare waterfront site with 28 rooms is complete, and IAG staff are assessing what upgrades the 1929 building needs. The historic property houses a 62-seat restaurant and a 50-seat bar at the end of Whiffin Spit Road.
The hotel and restaurant, known for its world-class dining experience, themed-guest rooms and gardens, sold after being on the market since April, with an original asking price of $5.6 million.
The Harbour House was wrapped up in various legal actions, including an ownership battle between the Sooke couple who bought the hotel in 1979 and a couple of corporations that were in share-purchase agreements.
Black Press Media reached out to former co-owner Frederique Philip for comment.
“The restaurant put this part of the Island on the map,” Watson said. “You can’t replicate a location like this place filled with so much history and goodwill.”
Watson isn’t a stranger to the beloved building that has attracted visits by movie stars and served as a movie-set location. He has fond memories with roommates from college in Sooke and family friends that live in the district too.
The new owners hope to emphasize a West Coast vibe, with architecture and design that fits with the area. They’re looking at the potential for a spa facility to relax and unwind and considering working with local tour groups to boost tourism.
Watson said he knows the building is starting to show age. After his first walk-through, he pointed out that there needs to be electrical work, new carpets, and the roof might need a second look as well.
He wants to keep the Sooke Harbour House’s historic look and feel, but make it more modern.
IAG is in discussions to bring in several big-name food and beverage groups to the property.
The Harbour House aims to be fully operational by fall 2021, but Watson says nothing is set in stone.