Hilton-branded hotels planned for Morguard’s Queen Street site in Ottawa

Real estate developer Morguard has scrapped its original plan to build a new hotel and apartment complex at 361 Queen St. and is now proposing to redevelop the two existing towers on the site into a pair of lodgings under the Hilton brand.

The new plan for the 1.85-acre site of the former National Hotel & Suites calls for the taller 17-storey high-rise to be converted into a 173-room extended-stay facility under the Homewood Suites by Hilton banner. The smaller 10-storey building will become a Hilton Garden Inn with 171 units providing short-stay accommodations.

Pending city approval, the $30-million project is slated for completion by the spring of 2018. It will be Hilton’s first property in downtown Ottawa.

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Morguard shut down the National Hotel & Suites in December 2013, saying it wanted to redevelop the property. In the summer of 2015, it submitted a proposal to demolish the existing structure and replace it with a 27-storey hotel and a 23-storey apartment building.

Sanjay Rateja, Morguard’s vice-president of hotels and North American residential REIT, said the company ultimately decided it would be too costly and time-consuming to completely rebuild the site.  

“The landscape of the hotel (industry) in Ottawa is changing,” he said, noting the original project would have taken up to four years to complete and Morguard didn’t want to wait that long to bring new hotel properties to market. “There are more hotels coming and more new ones opening.”

Mr. Rateja said Hilton was keen to establish a foothold in downtown Ottawa, adding the configuration of the two existing buildings was a “natural fit” for a separate extended-stay lodging and a shorter-stay facility.

The taller high-rise, which was originally an apartment building, already had all the drains, pipes and infrastructure to accommodate kitchens for suites, he said. In addition, Hilton felt the national capital is an ideal location for such a facility, he added.

“Ottawa has a very, very strong extended stay business where people come from all parts of the world to deal with government and technology and are doing projects for three or four months,” Mr. Rateja said.

The interior of both structures will be gutted down to their concrete shells and totally renovated. The exterior of the 1970s-era buildings – which have sat empty for almost three years – will also get an extensive makeover, with much of the existing brick being replaced with glass windows and balconies.

A number of new amenities, including 4,500 square feet of conference space, a bar, restaurant, pool and fitness facility, will also be part of the complex. The lobby of the adjoining office building at 350 Sparks St. will also be redeveloped, and new retail space will be added on the ground floor.

Chamberlain, a Burlington-based architecture and construction firm that has worked on more than 200 hotel projects, will be in charge of the redevelopment, with assistance from Newmarket’s Royal Design.

Steve Ball, the president of the Ottawa Gatineau Hotel Association, said the project will replenish lost inventory in the downtown core while helping to revitalize the west end of Sparks Street.

“I love builds like this because it shows confidence in our marketplace and the future of the tourism and hospitality industry going forward for Ottawa,” he said. “They wouldn’t be investing this kind of money if they didn’t believe in growth in our industry. New (projects) like this are going to employ hundreds of people. It’s just good for the economy.”

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