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Renovation of former English Inn, with $13M-plus price tag, is a passion project for developer

Lenny Moy is getting down into the details of the $13-million project — buying dishes from London’s Savoy Hotel and stand-in Buckingham Palace gates from The Crown television series.

Lenny Moy is at $13 million and counting for renovations to the heritage Rosemead House, previously Esquimalt’s English Inn.

He’s taking on details large and small in the countdown to a June opening for the restaurant, to be followed by 28 hotel rooms and the Salt and Ivy spa in September.

“I’m helping design the bar because that’s what we need in order to have it open in June,” he said of the renovation, which has become a passion project.

“Either I let somebody else do it, which will take another month, or I get involved.”

Last week, he met with representatives supplying soda and draft beer to work out issues such as where supply lines will run, how they will fit in the bar and the size of holes needed.

Vancouver-based Aragon Properties, which bought the site in 2016, has developed close to 100 projects, including Esquimalt Town Square, but this is the company’s first hotel. It will be owned and operated by Aragon, the company Moy founded 30-plus years ago.

The three-storey building at 429 Lampson St. is an Esquimalt landmark, designed by architect Samuel MacLure and originally built as a home — dubbed Rosemead — for businessman Thomas Henry Slater and his wife, Elizabeth, in 1906.

It was bought by tourism promoter Sam Lane and his wife, Rosina, after the Second World War. They converted it to a guesthouse and added a number of small outbuildings, including one called Anne Hathaway’s Cottage. Those buildings have since been demolished.

Moy said Rosemead House will be an upscale boutique hotel, although room prices have not yet been set.

Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins said council members who visited the property last week were “awestruck with the project and its vision,” which she predicts will draw people to the municipality.

Rosemead House is filling a couple of gaps in the municipality, Desjardins said: Esquimalt doesn’t have any other hotels or motels, or a high-end restaurant.

Aragon’s Greater Victoria holdings include a 26-acre development site at the former Trio Gravel Mart site in Cordova Bay.

But when it comes to the company’s projects, “this is the most personal for sure,” Moy said while touring a Times Colonist reporter and photographer through the unfinished property.

He didn’t start out expecting to be so involved. But that’s what happened “as a result of making more and more decisions.”

“I’m so invested and now I’ve got to keep going. That’s what makes it so fascinating.”

It’s also a legacy, he said. At some point, “I’ll be gone and then there’ll be other people that will take care of it. That’s how I see it.”

Moy is the kind of guy who would rather not have his photograph or name in the paper — he likes to get things done without being the centre of attention.

But he’s happy to talk about the inn and is good-natured when describing challenges and surprises they’ve encountered along the way.

One example: “When we first started we did not envision replacing all the siding, all the roofs. That’s what we ended up doing because as soon as we started doing one part, [we discovered] it was falling apart,” said Moy, who had originally estimated the renos would cost $1 million.

It’s clear his interest in this project is personal. The name Janevca Kitchen and Lounge was created from the names of his three adult children.

Moy purchased all of the furniture for Rosemead House. He joined a daughter who was attending school in London, England, rented an apartment and started buying furniture.

The sheer volume of furniture soon outgrew the apartment, so he rented a warehouse in the outskirts of the city to store the hundreds of pieces, many purchased from auctions.

His purchases include furniture from the Dorchester Hotel and dishes from the five-star Savoy Hotel.

A set of 13-foot-tall iron gates to be mounted at the property’s entrance off Lampson Street are from the set of The Crown television series, where they stood in for Buckingham Palace’s gates.

They arrived in Esquimalt in three 40-foot containers.

Moy has also had fun with toilets.

New toilets that flush using a pull cord from the ceiling were purchased in the U.K. and will be installed in the gender-neutral washroom on the lower level.

In other rooms, rounded Japanese toilets with warm seats are equipped with sensors that cause the lid to rise when someone walks into a room.

Moy points to other notable features of the property — the many heritage trees, new stonework constructed from rock blasted on the grounds, old brick installed in interior walls, leaded-glass windows, new outdoor seating areas, and tiered landscaping bordering the wedding garden with its own pavilion for ceremonies.

Ceilings have been raised, new beams have been installed, and rooms have been enlarged. Rock was blasted out of the lower level to create a multi-use area.

Moy decided to keep a natural rock face uncovered during the blasting to serve as a wall in the new wine room. That level will also hold an event space and be a place for teas and brunches.

Each of the 14 rooms in the original building is different. Some have pitched ceilings, fireplaces and individual patios. There’s no elevator in that building but the new 14-room Inn wing will have one, along with the spa. Together the original inn and new wing are approximately 30,000 square feet, Moy said.

Rosemead House is only one part of Aragon’s development on the 4.3-acre Lampson property, where multi-family upscale condominiums are under construction. A total of 178 units are planned, including six townhouses, bringing the total overall budget to $180 million.

Aragon is hoping for the first occupancy permit this fall, Moy said. Aragon has not carried out pre-sales. It only sells completed projects.

The second building will follow about three months after that, and a third building in another three months. Underground parking will serve both residents and guests.

Paul Nursey, chief executive of Destination Greater Victoria, said Rosemead House’s unique guestrooms and antique furnishing will help it in the marketplace, making it a good addition to Greater Victoria’s stock of distinctive boutique hotels. “I think it will really help our overall destination.”

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