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Delta getting $10-M revamp

Fortunate timing allows chain's latest room model to be installed

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A renovated hotel room in the Delta chain's new design in the Delta Winnipeg.

WAYNE GLOWACKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

A renovated hotel room in the Delta chain's new design in the Delta Winnipeg. Photo Store

The domino effect of new development downtown continues to roll on.

Hoarding has gone up over the last couple of days blocking off the lobby area of the Delta Winnipeg Hotel as it embarks on what will eventually be a $10-million renovation of all its public spaces and all 393 of its guest rooms.

Helen Halliday, the general manager of the hotel, had just arrived at the hotel when the last renovation of the property occurred about 10 years ago.

But as far as Halliday recalls, that was nothing compared to what's going on now.

"What's different between this renovation and the last one is that we are going to a different level of hotel this time and that's exciting," Halliday said.

Just about everything will be gutted and completely updated, starting with the lobby area that had featured a closed-in stairway to the second-floor ballrooms that completely separated the space.

'What's different between this renovation and the last one is that we are going to a different level of hotel this time and that's exciting'

It was so bad, guests checking in at the front desk could not see the hotel's high-end restaurant, Blaze Bistro and Lounge, located just on the other side of the stairway.

Tempered glass will replace the half-walls that had closed in the stairway, opening up the space.

The entire set of second-floor ballrooms and meeting rooms are in the process of being demolished and will be tricked out with the latest technology such as partition walls producing maximum sound isolation.

And every one of the hotel's 393 guest rooms -- the Delta is the largest hotel in the city -- will be completely gutted and fitted out with sleek new furnishings most of which will be made by local supplier Buhler Furniture.

The lobby and ballrooms are scheduled to be completed by September and two-thirds of the rooms on eight of the 15 floors will be done later in the fall. Halliday says work on the rest of the rooms will then commence. The hotel's health club and the Blaze will be done by the end of next summer.

The Elephant & Castle Pub and Restaurant -- a tenant in the hotel -- will embark on its own renovation soon, featuring the first example of the new-look Elephant & Castle. That chain is under new ownership after having been purchased out of bankruptcy protection in 2011.

Jim Baker, executive director of the Manitoba Hotel Association, said hotels typically need to refresh themselves every 10 years, so the Delta Winnipeg is right on schedule.

But with the growing awareness of style and esthetics from a more well-travelled population, renovations can't just be utilitarian.

"You have to keep up with the Joneses," he said. "There is always a new look. And also what happens is that different brands have different requirements."

Winnipeg Delta's owners, InnVest REIT, had intended to do the renovations sooner, but the delay proved fortuitous because the Delta chain has come up with a new room-design model. The Winnipeg property will now become one of the first Delta hotels to feature it.

"As it turns out, we're thrilled there was a delay," Halliday said. "Delta Hotels had not concluded their new room concept. If we had started earlier we would not have been to that style. Now we're right on the cutting edge of where Delta is going."

The Delta Winnipeg is one of three properties InnVest owns in Winnipeg -- the other two are Comfort Inns -- and it's the third-largest in the company's portfolio of 134 properties across the country.

According to a recent corporate presentation, InnVest is planning to spend about $65 million on its properties this year.

Baker said Halliday should feel pretty good about the fact InnVest will dedicate 15 per cent of its total capital expense this year in her property.

"This signifies that they think she is a good operator and the property deserves it," Baker said. "Because they could put the money in a variety of places."

But there are obvious likely payoffs to the investment.

The property -- which was opened in 1972 as a Holiday Inn and later became a Crowne Plaza -- was built as the Winnipeg Convention Centre's hotel. Now that the convention centre is going ahead with its own $180-million expansion, it behooves ownership to spruce up the hotel.

"We offer the largest amount of guest room to the convention centre," Halliday said. "In order to get conventions we have to be set up right, the offering has to be right, the convention centre has to be right. Everything comes from that."

martin.cash@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 13, 2013 B6

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