When Dick Koetsier heard it announced a new hotel has been approved for Bragg Creek, he was taken back, then realized it was his project being referenced.
He says it was almost as exciting as having your song make the radio.
"It makes people think, 'Really, 120-room hotel in Bragg Creek, wow!' So we'll just go with that wow, and get it done."
For Koetsier, that 'wow' is something he's been building towards for the last 16 years. Gateway Village is not just a hotel. It's also a restaurant, conference centre, spa, amphitheatre, boutique shops, and up to 170 residential units, including townhouses, apartments, and condominiums.
On May 4, Rocky View County approved both the master plan for the 12.5 acres mixed-use development and rezoned the land as a direct control district.
Koetsier says it will allow more people to enjoy the magic of Bragg Creek while creating more traffic for the local business community. It will also improve road infrastructure within the community.
"A lot of people ride their bicycles to Bragg Creek, then head back home, but they don't have room in their spandex for a credit card, so hopefully we can get them to stick around a while."
Overnight accommodation is limited in the hamlet of around 600, and the introduction of a major hotel and conference centre will allow people to take more than a day trip to Bragg Creek.
Adding housing will also help build upon its population, and allow people to move to the hamlet that couldn't otherwise afford to live there.
Koetsier says the first phase will see the expansion of the Old West Mall with ground floor retail and second and third storey residential apartments.
"That's going to happen right out of the gate, which is probably three years away. We'll try and push it, but I've been at this for 16 years, so three years isn't a lot, and it will fly by."
Dear to Koetsier's heart is the re-establishment of the iconic Steak Pit that was severely damaged during the 2013 flood. Attempts were made to reopen it after the flood, but it didn't meet building codes and would require a ground-up restoration. It will be relocated next to the river.
"We're going to try to make it feel like when you walk in the front door, you're walking into the original one."
"That's going to become a lasting legacy for Bragg Creek because one of the things people associated with Bragg Creek for years was driving out to the Steak Pit."
That same flood claimed Koetsier's home that's become known as the "Green Roof" floating down the Elbow River.
Koetsier is known for his passion for the heritage and history of the Bragg Creek area, and he wants to make sure it's incorporated into Gateway.
He's initially called the major hotel the Wakesiah Lodge, which has seen the Bragg Creek Historical Society express a little concern. Koetsier actually owns the original Wakesiah Lodge.
"Wakesiah Lodge was constructed by Ida May White, who was one of the founding pioneers of Bragg Creek, and it was the first place where you could actually get overnight accommodation within the hamlet. So, I couldn't think of a better name, but we'll see. If somebody thinks of a better name, we'll use it.
"I invited the historical society to participate in the development to ensure we celebrate our history here because it's absolutely unique and exciting."
Koetsier has acquired a significant amount of land over the years, during which he launched a fight for McLean Creek to be used for flood mitigation instead of the proposed Springbank Off-stream Reservoir. Since then, extensive berming is underway on his property along the Elbow River. A water and sanitary system has also been added to the hamlet. As those infrastructure pieces started to fall into place, he established a team to pursue the Gateway Village.
Before this, the community discussions during the formulation of the 2015 Bragg Creek Revitalization Plan provided some initial encouragement.
"I'd already been on the same road, but it gave me the confidence that I was on the right track. Also, all of the local support that we received as well as unanimous council support just really solidifies the fact that we're doing the right thing, and we're on the right track. That just puts a little more jet fuel in the rocket, and we're going to get this done."
Koetsier and the Gateway Developments team formally engaged residents and businesses in January 2021 before the refinement and approval of the plan. More than 280 people responded to the online survey, and many attended presentations and spoke with Koetsier.
You can learn more about the development here.