Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Lakeview checks out on hotel

Developer dumps downtown project

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The prospect of up to three new hotels rising within a one-block radius of the downtown convention centre had a setback Thursday after one developer said its project is on hold.

Lakeview Management Inc. vice-president Wayne Bollman said Lakeview officials have decided not to proceed with a new seven-storey, 108-room hotel on a surface parking lot it owns just west of the RBC Convention Centre Winnipeg.

Construction was to start this fall, but Bollman said Lakeview is now looking at other development options for the property.

Two other groups -- Longboat Development Corp. and CentreVenture Development Corp. -- are still keen on seeing two highrise hotels built immediately north of the convention centre.

A Longboat official said Thursday it's in negotiations with an international hotel chain and a local investor who are interested in building a four-star inn at the south end of the Manitoba Public Insurance parking lot just south of Graham Avenue between Carlton and Hargrave streets.

Doug McKay, Longboat's director of commercial development, wouldn't reveal which hotel chain Longboat and co-developer Artis Real Estate Investment Trust are talking to or the name of the local investor, and he wouldn't speculate on when they might know if the project will proceed or how big the hotel might be.

"We've got good conversations going on between the right people," he said. "But until the documents are signed and shovels are in the ground, nothing is for certain."

The hotel would be part of Longboat and Artis Real Estate Investment Trust's SoPo Square mixed-use development, also expected to include two mid-rise office towers and a large outdoor plaza.

CentreVenture Development Corp. and convention centre officials are also keen to see a high-rise, brand-name hotel built on the former Carlton Inn property, which CentreVenture purchased earlier this year for $6.5 million.

Stuart Olson Dominion Construction won the contract to build the $181-million addition to the convention centre by promising to build a high-rise hotel on the site. However, the developer it lined up left the project in 2012, so the search for a new developer continues.

Bollman wouldn't say why Lakeview changed its mind about its hotel project or what other development options it's considering.

"And that's not to say... that in three to five years we won't revisit that (building a hotel on the site)," he said. "But if there is another option that makes more sense, that's what we'll pursue."

Lakeview had been talking for a number of years about building one, maybe two hotels on the property, but for one reason or another, the projects never went ahead.

Bollman wouldn't say if Lakeview's decision was influenced by the spate of new hotels in the last few years, particularly in the city's airport-Polo Park area.

As well, a 12-storey, 154-room Alt Hotel is going up downtown as part of the 311 Portage Avenue at Centrepoint development under construction on the north side of Portage across from the MTS Centre. That's expected to open next fall.

Some might wonder if there's enough demand to justify two more highrise hotels in downtown Winnipeg, but the president and CEO of the Manitoba Hotel Association said that shouldn't be an issue.

Jim Baker noted more than 500 downtown hotel rooms have been lost in the last three or four years with the conversion of the former Sheraton Winnipeg hotel and the ongoing conversion of Place Louis Riel to apartments.

"So if you add 500 more rooms to the area, we're back to square 1."

Baker also noted convention centre president and CEO Klaus Lahr estimates the convention centre's expansion will help attract at least 450,000 more convention delegates a year to the city.

"So if those numbers hold up, yes (there is room for two more highrise hotels near the convention centre)," he said.

murray.mcneill@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 11, 2013 B6

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