The former owner of the Battery Hotel said Monday he’s thrilled the site is now under Memorial University ownership.
“I’m very pleased with the sale,” Rick Butler told The Telegram on Monday, the first time the Nova Scotia-raised, now California-based hotel developer has spoken publicly about the sale. Memorial University announced late last year it was buying the hotel on Signal Hill, and the deal officially closed late last week for $9.5 million.
“I’ve supported it. I was a prof at Memorial for three years back in the ’70s.”
Butler bought the hotel — which opened in 1970 — in 2005, and planned to tear it down and build a new 10-storey hotel, but didn’t get development approval. He said his former plans for the site are inconsequential now, and he’s happy to have the university take over.
“It doesn’t matter now. That’s all in the past,” said Butler. “(St. John’s city) council was actually quite supportive. We didn’t get to the point of making the final formal application to council. … Dennis O’Keefe, and then before Dennis O’Keefe, Andy Wells, both were quite supportive, but we didn’t make an application to council for the hotel plans we had in mind. We had some neighbourhood opposition, which is inevitable for any new development. We did have some of that.”
Butler said the sale is good not just for him and the university, but also for the province.
“This isn’t just any site. This is Signal Hill. That’s what’s involved here. It’s an icon, a local icon,” he said. “To have Memorial University of Newfoundland involved in the future of this important site, it’s a wonderful thing. We’re very pleased about it.”
Memorial president and vice-chancellor Gary Kachanoski told The Telegram the acquisition addresses some of the university’s most pressing needs for space, and will give the school “a more tangible and dynamic presence in downtown St. John’s.” Documents obtai-ned by The Telegram also indicate the provincial government has authorized Memorial to spend up to $16.2 million on repairs and alterations to the building.