What’s Happening in Gibsons?

Joannah Connolly
June 22, 2016

The gentle, historic, tourist town of Gibsons on the Sunshine Coast, popular with summer day-trippers and the retirement set, is about to undergo massive changes, the like of which locals have never seen before.

A new resort hotel, residential and marina development in the heart of the town is set to be a game-changer – not just for Gibsons but potentially for the whole of the Sunshine Coast.

The George in Gibsons, named after the town’s founding father George Gibson, will comprise a 116-room five-star hotel, expansive conference facilities, a massive “destination” health spa, a new boardwalk with new restaurants, a new marina and a 40-unit luxury waterfront condo building. It is expected to be complete in early 2019.

Big Ambitions

The development, which is hoping to achieve LEED Gold construction standards, is intended to become a major economic catalyst for the town. It aims to diversify and stabilize the economy by adding around 150 full-time jobs upon completion, more than 245 man-years of construction employment, $1 million-plus in annual municipal and regional tax revenues, and bring to the town 32,000 visitors each year, which are expected to contribute $7.9 million in tourism spending.

Aside from the new resort itself, the development is expected to create vastly increased activity for other Sunshine Coast accommodations, shops and restaurants, as users of the exceptional spa and conference facilities choose to stay and eat elsewhere. The developer is also working on setting up partnerships with educational organizations such as Vancouver Community College, so that its hospitality students can work and learn their trade at the George.

Klaus Fuerniss, the Gibsons developer whose background is in the hospitality industry, including stints on the Vancouver Convention Centre and Expo ’86, and who also owns 10 Tim Horton’s restaurants and Gibsons Marina, is the seemingly tireless man behind the project.

Fuerniss told reporters on a recent media tour, “I’ve lived in Gibsons for 21 years and I have seen people make money in the summer and lose it in the winter. So I felt that the town needed something to help it on a year-round basis – and if there’s something that I know, it’s the hotel and convention business.”

Fuerniss purchased the large swathe of underdeveloped waterfront land in the heart of Gibsons, and its marina, many years ago. After more than a decade of public debate and two-and-a-half years in the planning process, the council finally voted to amend current zoning to allow the development to go ahead.

The George in Gibsons will comprise the large hotel, spa and conference building on one side of a public walkway and central plaza, the smaller private residences on the other side, and the new “seawalk” with restaurants and marina at the foot of the complex.

The Private Residences

The 40 high-end condominium units (see photo gallery above), in an Omicron-designed building that matches the hotel’s typical West Coast architectural style, will range from 600 square feet to 2,500 square feet, with some of the most desirable units boating two floors and a private elevator.

Feurniss told REW.ca, “Like the rest of the development, the condominiums are designed for comfort, with high-end finishings and interiors by False Creek Designs. They are intended for people who want to live here year-round. Residents will be able to get 24-hour concierge service, room service and maid service from the hotel and have a club membership to use the spa and conference facilities. It’s a lifestyle development that allows residents to take advantage of the location, the seawalk, the car shares and bike shares, the health and wellness aspects.”

Diana Robertson, marketing manager at Placemaker Marketing, which is marketing the condo units, told REW.ca, “Sales aren’t open yet, but the price point for the two-bedroom units, on the waterfront and around 900 to 1,000 square feet, will be around $699,000. There will be a few smaller one-bedroom units, around 600 to 700 square feet, but they haven’t been priced yet.”

She added, “We expect a lot of the buyers to come from the North Shore, lots of downsizers, probably in the 50- to 70-year-old range. People who want a two-and-a-half-bedroom suite, where they can stay here six months of the year, probably bought another property down south with the proceeds of their detached home sale… And some young professionals as well, and maybe some US buyers, with the low dollar. We’ve also seen some increasing interest from Asian buyers, although there is not a big Asian community in Gibsons.”

Facilities as a Destination

The five-star hotel on the other side of the plaza is what the development is really about, however. There will be four floors of 116 hotel rooms, most of which are 400 square feet and upwards in size, including some luxury suites.

The George will offer 14,000 square feet of state-of-the-art conference facilities intended to attract event planners and delegates from across the province – particularly from Vancouver.

And the pièce de resistance is the second floor of the sprawling hotel, the entirety of which will be taken up by an ultra-luxury, 21,000-square-foot health and wellness spa.

Feurniss said that he added the spa facilities to his vision because “health and wellness today is a tourist attraction.”

The spa is based largely on the European kur (“healing”) concept, which means there will be medical staff on site, healing pools and various different kinds of saunas to treat different needs, as well as swimming pools, exercise facilities, spa treatment rooms and so on.

Fuerniss said that the spa will be only the second of its kind in BC, with the only other comparable “destination” spa being Sparkling Hills in Vernon. He added, “Sparkling Hills, which is based on the same ‘kur’ concept, has been very successful – and that is a far-away location. Whereas the George in Gibsons will be very easily accessible from Vancouver.”

In addition, there will be a new restaurant on the waterfront, a more casual family restaurant along the new seawall, and a private dining room on the hotel’s conference level.

The new boardwalk will be attached to an expanded marina, which will become part of the existing Gibsons Marina. This will encourage boat owners to dock and stay at the resort, and – more importantly – allow for the George's planned private charter boats to transport hotel, conference and spa guests directly to the front of the George from downtown Vancouver in 30 minutes.

Fuerniss said, “We will be offering packages of conference or spa stays, including hotel accommodation, use of the facilities and boat transport direct from downtown Vancouver.”

He is also expecting that BC companies will use the hotel for conferences and awards ceremonies both small and large, and that private guests will book the space for weddings. “We have one room that accommodates over 300 people for dinner, as well as a 120-seat chapel, and lots of outdoor space for events,” he said.

The developer said that, with these seemingly unrivalled facilities, he expects a flood of guests from around BC, especially Vancouver, throughout the year.

“My biggest fear about it all is that it will be too small,” added Fuerniss with a laugh.

Joannah Connolly
Joannah Connolly is editorial director of Glacier Real Estate, Glacier Media's real estate division. Joannah writes and curates real estate news for Glacier Media's local newspaper websites, including the Vancouver Courier, North Shore News, Burnaby Now, Tri-City News and others. She also oversees editorial content in Real Estate Weekly Homes, West Coast Condo, Western Investor and Glacier's special real estate publications. A dual Canadian-British citizen, Joannah has 22 years of journalism and editing experience in Vancouver and London, with a background in construction, architecture, healthcare and business media. Joannah has appeared on major local TV outlets as a real estate commentator, has moderated and spoken on various industry panels, and spent two years hosting the Real Estate Therapist radio show on Roundhouse Radio.