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Tue. Jul 23rd, 2024

New Element Hotel supports the need for hotel space in downtown Calgary

By Vaseline May31,2024
New Element Hotel supports the need for hotel space in downtown Calgary

The PBA Group of Companies (PBA) is transforming an empty office space into a new hotel to support Calgary’s growing demand for downtown hotel space.

The PBA Group of Companies, which is also behind the Dorian Hotel, has begun construction on the former Canadian Center at 833 – 4 Avenue SW. The renovated building will be part of the Element Hotels by Westin, which will focus on extended-stay units. The project will be carried out in collaboration with the American Concord Hospitality.

This repurposing is part of the city’s Downtown Calgary Development Incentive Program. The program supports the transformation of unused office buildings in the city center into homes, schools, arts centers and, in this case, hotels. The PBA is participating in the program and will receive a $9.8 million grant from the city upon completion of the hotel.

Tourism Calgary expects the city to attract 8.7 million visitors by 2024, adding $3.2 billion in revenue to the tourism sector. This has necessitated the city’s new development plan, as it will allow new structures to be added to the downtown area more quickly and with less environmental impact.

According to Calgary’s Hotel Association (CHA), the downtown area currently only has about 5,000 hotel rooms. To add perspective to this, the Calgary Stampede has consistently seen occupancy rates rise to almost 90 percent during the event. The number of visitors increased from 1.2 million in 2022 to 1.38 million in 2023.

The occupancy rate during Stampede is for the total number of hotel rooms in the city. Sol Zia, executive director of the CHA, said the surplus is often diverted to hotels outside the core and hotel rooms in downtown Calgary are at full capacity during Stampede.

The new opening of the BMO Center will also create more than one million square feet of convention space, including the Telus Convention Center. These events would also require more hotel space downtown.

“With the expansion of the BMO Center and the future events centre, there are many things happening in Calgary’s local visitor landscape that we believe are very positive. We want to continue to be part of that and contribute to it,” said Zia.

PBA used the 170,000 square foot frame of the old Canadian Center for their construction, but when demolition was completed last December, the building underwent a complete overhaul of the electrical and internal plumbing structure.

“Basically, if you come in as a guest, you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between the level of finish of a new building and this building for the entire inside of the building,” said James Scott Senior Vice President, Planning and Development, PBA .

The Element Hotel will have 226 suites, each with a kitchenette and a larger refrigerator for longer stays. The upper mid-range hotel will diversify the city’s hospitality options for downtown businesses and event guests.

The need for hotels for longer stays

Zia said downtown Calgary needs more extended-stay hotels like The Element Hotel. The only other option at the moment would be the Coast Hotel, which has recently been converted to allow for longer stays.

“That actually helps with our marketing and sales around film and TV productions, which is growing significantly in the Calgary region. The people who work and come here to work in production or on the talent side don’t stay for 2 or 3 nights,” said Zia.

Calgary is no stranger to film production with major projects like Fargo, The Last of Us, The Revenant, and recently Netflix is ​​considering filming their new show The Abandons in the city. These projects have significant demand for hotels for their cast and crew.

Zia called Calgary’s film industry a “mosaic,” made up of these larger projects but also hundreds of smaller productions.

A report from Nordicity shows that foreign feature film and TV production volume in Calgary increased from $52.1 million in 2020/2021 to more than $468 million in 2021/2022.

The Last of Us movie set in downtown Calgary. posted in 2022 on Reddit in r/Calgary by user Kayemmgee

Vacant office space is also being repurposed into hybrid solutions that create both homes and hotel rooms within the same complex.

“Extended stays are also great for people moving to Calgary looking for housing, and they want a place to stay that isn’t a traditional hotel room, where they can cook for themselves,” Scott said.

Aside from the influx of business visitors and Stampede, Calgary’s summer occupancy rate has risen to pre-recession levels of 2015, Zia said. There is now a slight decrease in occupancy rates during the winter months.

What The Element brings to Calgary

The lobby of The Element Hotel will mainly consist of a café featuring beans from a yet-to-be-determined local coffee roaster. The local theme continues at their luxury rooftop restaurant, which also has plans to collaborate with local businesses. PBA will also make use of the collaboration with Eau Claire Distillery at the new location.

“We strongly encourage collaboration with the restaurant, dining and entertainment sectors,” said Zia.

Because The Element is a mid-range hotel, it will offer a sophisticated stay while offering tourists and Calgary residents a more accessible option than the PBA’s more luxurious project The Dorian.

The conversion is also a lot more environmentally friendly: the PBA can keep 65 percent of their waste out of landfills, which amounts to a total of 572,000 kilograms of waste.

Thanks to the foundation of the older building, this new project can start faster. The CHA said at least 1,000 rooms must be added as a minimum requirement, but The Element’s 226 are a good start in supporting Calgary’s exponential growth.

The project should be completed in the summer of 2025.

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