Brothers breathe new life into beleaguered hotel

Former Howard Johnson Hotel will be unrecognizable when complete, developers promise

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 26/01/2011 (4260 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

A Winnipeg hotel that made headlines in the past as one of the city’s worst building code violators is getting a new life from a family of veteran hoteliers.

Angelo and Anthony Paletta, owners of AP2 Developments, have been quietly working on an $8-million “renaissance” of the former Howard Johnson hotel on Ellice Avenue near the airport.

The brothers purchased the building last November and plan to turn it into a 150-room Holiday Inn.

Matt Preprost Brothers Angelo (left) and Anthony Paletta are injecting $8-million into the former Howard Johnson Hotel on Ellice Avenue. “If I owned any real estate around here, I’d be cringing at this place. For any area to have something like this, the way it was run, is not fair,” Angelo Paletta said.

“The location is equidistant to the airport and Polo Park,” said Angelo Paletta, a Linden Woods resident.
“This hotel was a strong market competitor when it was well taken care of and that has to do with the location. The property has just been worn and worn down over the last 15 years.”

The hotel made headlines in November 2009 when the province issued a public health order and closed it down after its previous owner repeatedly failed to fix dozens of building code violations.

According to a Winnipeg Free Press report, health inspectors found that the hotel’s heat and hot water system were not functional. They also discovered holes in ceiling tiles and suites that had become infested by mould and bedbugs.

But it was the opening of a new strip club at the hotel several years ago that signalled its demise, Paletta said.

“It was strange because they were Howard Johnson, they were doing well, it just didn’t fit,” Paletta said. “I saw it and said ‘That’s the beginning of the end for that property’ and it’s interesting because…certainly it did go down that way.”

And so, the strip club is gone, to be replaced by an 11,000 sq.-ft. conference space. The Palettas also plan to build a themed water park and strip away all of the interior and existing exterior elements, including replacing all the windows and window frames.

“If you left Winnipeg now and came back at the end of September and saw this property, you’ll think we tore it down and rebuilt it,” Paletta said. “This isn’t just a facelift for us, this is a complete reconstructive surgery.

“It needs to be reborn and that’s what we’re going to do — give it a renaissance and add the amenities for both business travelers and family alike to attract a nice healthy mix of the two in the area.”

The brothers have a history of taking on ambitious projects, like revamping the former MTS offices at Polo Park into the Clarion Hotel and taking on the Hecla Oasis Resort.

They’re opening up an $8-million Suburban Extended Stay Hotel in Thompson in March.

“The Palettas have a track record of investing in the community,” said Jim Baker, president of the Manitoba Hotel Association.”

Baker said the hotel was a “prime property” for complaints the association received, and that the new life for the hotel is long overdue.

“We’re very proud of people like the Palettas that reinvest rather than letting (a property) run down and milking it. The industry doesn’t like seeing properties in the paper not in a good light, so I know other operators are happy to see it being revitalized.

“They have a real competitor now.”

The building was formerly owned by Vancouver-based hotelier David Grewal.

Shortly after the hotel was ordered to close in 2009, Howard Johnson cut its ties with the neglected property. The building then reverted back to its old name, the Airliner.

matt.preprost@canstarnews.com

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