project closes hotel deficit
Hamilton’s hotel room deficit is dwindling quickly, prompting hopes of turning the city into a destination for larger conventions.
On Monday, the city’s general issues committee approved a grant-loan package worth almost $10 million for a hotel on Bay Street between King and Main proposed by developer Darko Vranich.
Combined with an earlier Vranich project — the Staybridge Suites hotel that’s rising at George and Caroline streets — more than 300 rooms will be added to the local inventory by this time next year.
“That obviously changes the situation,” said Sue Monarch, acting director of Tourism Hamilton. “This really changes our ability to draw some larger conventions and meetings here.”
Hamilton has an inventory of just over 1,400 hotel rooms following the opening of the Best Western C Hotel by Carmen’s, on the east Mountain. Vranich’s Staybridge will bring another 130 into the mix by the end of this summer.
The grant-loan package approved by the city’s general issues committee will go toward a 180-room inn Vranich plans to build on Bay Street under one of the Hilton brands. It is to be finished by next summer.
Those developments are in addition to recent renovations of both the Sheraton and Crowne Plaza properties downtown.
Monarch said it will likely be two to three years before the expanded hotel inventory pays off in more convention business — once the inns are built, the city has to be marketed as a potential destination for convention organizers who’d previously written off Hamilton.
That, in turn, will be helped by the new properties opening the city to new reservation systems.
“The more brands we get into the city, the more it enhances our reputation,” said Monarch. “We can’t help but suspect this will be good for the city.”
Hotel developers typically look at statistics such as room occupancy rates and the outlook for business travel in an area when deciding where to build. Where developers like occupancy rates to average 70 per cent, Hamilton had an average of 54.7 per cent in 2010 (the most recent statistics available) — marginally lower than in 2009 but still an improvement from 2008.
Neil Everson, Hamilton’s director of economic development, said the new hotels will also spur efforts to revive the city’s core “because projects like this say something about the redevelopment of downtown.”
The hotels are part of a multimillion-dollar development including four new buildings that will bring as many as 600 condo units and 20,000 square feet of retail space to the downtown.
A brain child of developer Darko Vranich, the $125-million project has been on the drawing boards for the past decade as he slowly assembled a huge chunk of the city’s core.
The buildings are to be completed in five phases over the next six or seven years. The entire project is seen as a way of linking the restaurant-bar hub of Hess Village to the rest of the downtown.