Posted: Jan 14, 2008, 11:53 AM
It's Hammer Time
Join Date: Mar 2004
Rooms to grow: Hamilton's flood of hotel proposals
The Hamilton Spectator
(Jan 14, 2008)
Unexpectedly, perhaps even inexplicably, Hamilton has suddenly discovered it's become the 'inn' place to be.
After years of suffering from a chronic shortage of hotel space, Hamilton is awash in new proposals and redevelopment plans that could nearly double the city's stock of available hotel rooms.
"It's like rags to riches," said Neil Everson, the city's director of economic development. "I don't really have an explanation for it."
"It's welcome news to us because it has been our Achilles heel for the last number of years," added David Adames, executive director of Tourism Hamilton.
In the past week, three new hotels have been proposed for the lower city.
Two of the new projects, totalling as many as 400 rooms, would be located side by side on the proposed site of Hamilton Education Square, to be situated on the block bounded by King, Bay and Main Streets -- across from the current Sheraton Hotel.
As well, hotelier Oscar Kichi announced that he intends to build a hotel with at least 140 rooms at McMaster University's Innovation Park on Longwood Road South in the city's west end. Kichi already owns and operates the Marriott Courtyard on Upper James Street and the downtown Ramada Plaza, which is currently in the midst of an extensive $5-million renovation.
There are also plans for new hotels at the former Hamilton Motor Products site at the corner of Bay and Main streets, near the corner of Golf Links Road and Stone Church Road in Ancaster's Meadowlands, and a possible Holiday Inn Express at the corner of King and Queen streets.
An eventual reopening of the Royal Connaught hotel is also still in the works, once the current ownership group arranges financing.
"Hotels are just one example of where investors are looking at Hamilton with fresh eyes," said Adames.
He noted that the city may have reached a "tipping point" now that a number of projects have either been proposed or completed, including the innovation park, the education square, McMaster's downtown family health centre and the Red Hill Valley Parkway.
"There's all these good news things coming together and definitely investors are looking at the city," added Adames.
One reason for the unexpected interest could be improving occupancy rates across the province, which have been rebounding since the fallout from the 2003 SARS outbreak.
Hamilton has also been beating the provincial average when it comes to hotel industry standards for average daily rate and revenue per available room.
Another factor, Adames added, is that the city has dedicated staff resources to actively seek out investment opportunities.
Adames said that at present there are close to 900 hotel rooms in the city, but that's a fraction of the 3,600 hotel spaces in London, Ont., or 3,200 rooms in Windsor.
The lack of hotel rooms in Hamilton makes it difficult for the city to attract national and international conventions or sporting events.
"The reason we can't get half the conventions that we'd like is because we don't have the hotel space, and people end up sleeping in Burlington and Brantford," said Everson, "and that really does us no good in terms of economic benefits."