Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Hotel construction booming

Delta Winnipeg joins lengthy list of renos, additions and new builds

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Winnipeg's largest hotel is getting a $10-million-plus overhaul and another 158 new rooms are being added to the airport area -- with yet another new airport hotel also reported to be on the drawing board -- as the city undergoes its biggest hotel-construction boom in years.

The 393-room Delta Winnipeg at 350 St. Mary Ave. is undergoing a top-to-bottom interior renovation over the next three years, general manager Helen Halliday said Friday. That's on top of $1 million in recently completed upgrades to the exterior of the downtown building.

"It will be like a brand-new hotel," she said.

And the general manager of the city's first Marriott hotel -- the one-year-old Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott on Ellice Avenue near Polo Park -- said they're adding 48 rooms to the 126-room facility, and also building a 113-room Homewood Suites by Hilton extended-stay hotel on the same property.

Guy Hamilton said both projects should be finished by next September.

The three projects come at a time when Winnipeg is undergoing a staggering boom in hotel-related development.

At least nine new hotels are under construction or in the works -- five in the airport/Polo Park area, three downtown, and a new 118-room Canad Inns hotel on the Health Sciences Centre Campus on William Avenue. This does not include the 17-storey, 200-room Canad Inns casino hotel planned for McPhillips Street.

Beth Walters, a national director with PKF Consulting Inc. in Vancouver, said the nine projects downtown and at the airport will add at least 2,000 new rooms to the Winnipeg market over the next year or two.

She said it's the most new construction in the city in at least five years, and maybe a decade.

Walters said the airport-area projects include a third hotel to be built at the Richardson International Airport. Because it hasn't been announced, she declined to elaborate other than to say it will be a recognizable brand and will have at least 150 rooms.

The new downtown projects include the 60-room Sunstone Boutique Hotel under construction on Waterfront Drive, the 154-room ALT Hotel being built across the street from the MTS Centre and an upscale hotel to be built near the Winnipeg Convention Centre.

When the convention centre issued its request for proposals last year for its $180-million-plus expansion, it said whoever won that contract would also have to build a new upscale hotel that can be connected to the convention centre, has at least 250 to 300 rooms, and is part of an internationally recognized chain.

WCC general manager Klaus Lahr said last week that convention centre officials have picked a builder and are waiting for the firm to complete its plans for the hotel. He said the builder is still negotiating with several property owners in the area, and an announcement is expected by early November.

Lahr wouldn't reveal the identity of the builder, but construction industry sources said it's Stuart Olson Dominion Construction Ltd. -- the same firm that's building the new Winnipeg Blue Bomber football stadium. A local Stuart Olson Dominion official refused to comment on the hotel project.

Lahr also wouldn't speculate on where the hotel is likely to be built. But he said it won't be on the recently closed, provincially owned, surface parking lot south of York Avenue where the 250,000-square-foot Convention Centre addition will be built.

Lakeview Management Ltd., which already has a high-end hotel under construction at the airport, owns another surface parking lot immediately west of the Convention Centre.

It also plans to build a hotel there, but company vice-president Wayne Bollman said the project is on hold until Lakeview hears where the other new hotel is going and what type of facility it will be.

Lakeview had been talking about building two hotels on its property on the southeast corner of St. Mary Avenue and Edmonton Street. But Bollman said with all the other new hotel construction going on in the city, it's now looking at building just one.

"We're saying, 'Boy, can the market absorb that (all of the new hotel rooms)?' We want to be cautious."

Hamilton said he's not worried the airport area is becoming over-serviced.

"All of the hotels in the area are performing very well, so the business is there."

He said strong demand is what prompted the Fairfield Inn owner -- a numbered Manitoba company owned by Winnipeg's Sapozhnik family -- to expand and build a Hilton hotel on the property.

"We had a fabulous summer. It was very, very encouraging."

The six-storey Fairfield Inn addition, which was approved last week by the city, will be built on the Ellice Avenue side of the building. It will include another 1,000 square feet of meeting space to complement the 800 square feet already there.

murray.mcneill@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 8, 2012 B4

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Updated on Saturday, September 8, 2012 at 9:46 AM CDT: adds fact box

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