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What the Heck’s Going On in the City in the Center(re) of Canada?

October 18, 2013 at 12:47 PM | by | ()

Ever vigilant, we’ve noticed that there’s been a real buzz in the hotel world in the geographic center of Canada—unassuming Winnipeg. We decided to find out why two new locally-owned boutique hotels are or have just opened, why Groupe Germain decided to build the soon-to-be-open ALT Hotel, and why the Delta Winnipeg decided to embark on a top-to-bottom reno that sets them up to be the one of the first Delta Hotels to unveil the chain's new room design blueprint.

We first spoke with Neil Fishman, GM of The Grand, a boutique hotel that just opened on September 23 at Winnipeg's international airport. The property is Winnipeg’s first member of Preferred Hotels, falling under the Sterling Design label. We asked him what was behind the decision to open the hotel now? His response:

In October 2011, the Winnipeg Airport Authority built a brand new state-of-the-art airport [which we at HC just happen to know was designed by Caser Pelli & Associates, architects of the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur]. We thought it was important to build a hotel that would be adjacent to the new terminal while offering our guests a new, unique boutique hotel experience. It was our goal to build a property unlike any other hotel in Winnipeg—to offer amenities and services no other hotel was able to offer. Winnipeg is a booming market and there is a tremendous amount of growth in the airport area.

The Grand is a vision in glass, making it unique in the city. We’re told that the property has spa-like bathrooms, iPads in every room, Smart TVs with free access to Netflix, and, for you Starbucks fanatics out there, Starbucks coffee in the rooms and the lobby. (We’ll be reviewing this hotel later in the year so you’ll get the full inside scoop then.)

We’ve talked quite a bit about Hotel Germain’s little sister, ALT Hotels, here at HC ‘cause we’re just so impressed with these well-designed yet moderately-priced hotels opening across Canada. Now it’s Winnipeg’s turn to get an ALTernative hotel, with an expected opening in summer 2014.

Hugo Germain, Director of Development at Groupe Germain Hospitalité said that “the arrival of the Jets [an NHL hockey team which Winnipeg lost to Phoenix in the 90s until they made a triumphant return to the city in 2011], the construction of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights [which is scheduled to open in 2014 and a pretty big deal] and the new airport are all key indicators that Winnipeg is well on its way to becoming a thriving and sustainable metropolitan area.”

Next up is the Mere Hotel, another boutique property that's scheduled to open on November 15. The hotel will be located on Winnipeg’s newly-developed Waterfront Drive in the artsy Exchange District. Renderings show an architecturally interesting building. We can only speculate, however, as to “Why here? Why now?” because the hotel’s remaining mute on the subject.

Last on the hotel development front in the city is the reno happening at the Delta Winnipeg. The property is revamping its lobby and all 393 rooms. Not only that, but they’ll be one of the first Delta Hotels to unleash the chain’s new ModeRooms. Again, we heard nothing but silence as to why the hotel is renovating at this particular time, but certain things seem clear from what we have been able to piece together: The city is growing; it’s got its favorite sports team back; the first federally-funded museum outside of the country’s capital is being built; and there’s a spiffy new airport that should bring plenty of additional visitors to Winnipeg. And with all of that comes three new properties and a completely renovated one to a city that's not used to much hotel development in its recent past. You go, Winnipeg!

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