Local hotel conversions continue

Minto Group Inc. has closed its downtown Minto Suites Hotel operations earlier than expected as the company aims to fully convert the Lyon Street property by October.

By Michael Hammond.

The Minto conversion is the latest older hotel in Ottawa to be renovated for alternate uses.

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The building’s furnished suites business, which accommodates professionals seeking living quarters for 30 days or more, remains open. The company closed the hotel side of its operations early due to concerns over the disruption to hotel guests caused by the ongoing renovations.

Bill Stone, executive vice-president of CBRE’s hotels real estate brokerage, said the local conversions are part of a wider industry trend.

“Sometimes, with these older buildings, if they have to go through a large retrofit, an alternate use makes more sense,” he said.

Given the age of some hotels, Mr. Stone said the 1970s-era properties often hold higher values as other businesses.

Minto’s facility at 185 Lyon St., which is being branded as Minto One80Five, is considerably newer than the hotel properties that are increasingly being sought as seniors’ residences or student residences, for example. The hotel operated for 25 years.

Minto’s conversion will see 232 hotel rooms converted into luxury apartments, while 185 furnished suites will continue to be available.

George Van Noten, senior vice-president of Minto’s property operations, said in addition to aligning the property more closely with the company’s core business focus, Minto sees an opportunity in the market for a high-quality rental property in the downtown core.

“We see the attitude toward ownership changing,” he said. “We see a younger demographic that puts a greater value on mobility … and is much more adventurous in their lifestyle.”

Mr. Van Noten said this demographic values being close to the workplace and entertainment in the core. The company is ahead of its leasing targets, he added.

The new facility will have a concierge service, fitness space and saltwater pool, among other amenities.

Minto’s conversion is one of three local hotel properties undergoing change. The sale of the Holiday Inn on Cooper Street to Campus Suites Inc. is expected to close this month, as the prospective new owners look to convert the hotel into a private student residence.

The former National Hotel at 361 Queen St. is undergoing renovations, although the property’s owner Morguard Corp. has yet to unveil its plans for the building. 

Last year, 22 hotels across Canada were converted for alternate use or sold for redevelopment, according to CBRE statistics. Of that number, five were slated to become seniors’ residences while four were to become student residences.

Ottawa has already seen two hotel conversions. The Cartier Place Suite Hotel converted its extended stay portion to retirement residences beginning in 2006, while the Embassy West Hotel on Carling Avenue completed its transition to a retirement residence in 2011.

Dick Brown, the recently-retired director of the Ottawa Gatineau Hotel Association, says he’s not concerned about the loss of hotel rooms since there are two new hotel projects well underway in the core.

The Alt Hotel on Slater Street is scheduled to open in 2016, while Claridge Homes is redeveloping a property on Dalhousie Street in the ByWard Market as part of a plan to build a hotel and condominium complex.

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