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City buys historic Condill Hotel, plans its demolition

Landmark built during highway's construction celebrates 75th anniversary this year
condill
Con Hergot and Joe Dill built the hotel in 1942 as a place for American soldiers to stay during the construction of the Alaska Highway.

The City of Fort St. John has bought the historic Condill Hotel.

City councillors approved the $870,00 deal in a closed meeting on Monday. The purchase will officially close in September. 

"When the opportunity presented itself, we made the decision to purchase the building so we can improve the culture and character of our downtown," Mayor Lori Ackerman said in a statement.

condill
The Condill Hotel under construction in 1942. - Fort St. John North Peace Museum

Con Hergot and Joe Dill built the hotel in 1942 as a place for American soldiers to stay during the construction of the Alaska Highway.

Seventy-five years later, the building is at "the end of its life cycle," the city says, and will be demolished. The vacant lot will be added to the city's strategic land assembly plan and sold in the future as part of downtown redevelopment. 

"It's the end of an era," Ackerman said. "The building has a long history in our community, and although the useful life of the building is over, we want to do our best to preserve its memory."

The hotel, owned by Elaine and Leo Budnick since the 1980s, was listed by realtor and city councillor Trevor Bolin for $1,450,000.

The city has had four closed meetings about the building's purchase since May, and city officials confirm that Bolin declared a conflict of interest and recused himself from the meetings. 

In an interview, Bolin said he had the property listed before the city made an offer, and that he was not part of the city's discussions on the deal.

The Budnicks were looking forward to retirement and a lifestyle change, he said. Leo Budnick died during the selling process, with a celebration of life held at the Charlie Lake Church on Thursday. 

Bolin said half of his listing commission, $15,000, will be donated to support a local group, to be chosen by residents.

"I want people to be able to remember the great things Leo and Elaine did," he said, recalling a time when they raised funds to rebuild the kid's arena. 

"Leo never bragged about the things he did. With the Condill becoming the end of an era, I think we need something to keep that memory close."

The hotel is a "pivotal icon" in the city, Bolin said.

"You talk to somebody who was here in the 50s, 60s, 70s, or even the 80s, and that's one of the things they remember about Fort St. John," he said.

"We see times change and unfortunately with that so too do developers' plans, and builders' plans, and downtown plans."

While city officials confirm no future buyers have been lined up for the site, Bolin would like to see the lot redeveloped into a commercial square that blends with the new BC Government and Service Employees' Union building next door, which is slated to open next month.

"That building is a prime example," Bolin said.

"It's a gorgeous building on a property that was not being used to its full potential. Now, there's new trees and landscaping. 

"Everything they've done to the property, that's the new downtown, that's the new Fort St. John," he said.

Elaine Budnick was happy about the sale.

"It's a good thing for everybody involved," she said.

"It's been a real joy for Leo and I all these years having it."

Budnick is planning to close down the hotel by Aug. 15. The hotel has around 10 long-term tenants.

"Most of them got places already, or lined up places, there's a few that haven't, but they'll manage as we do look after them," she said. 

editor@ahnfsj.ca