Group Germain breaks ground on new Slater Street hotel

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Mark Brownlee
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The operator of a boutique hotel chain officially kicked off construction of a new downtown build on Wednesday, the day after a would-be competitor announced it was exiting the industry.

Artist's rendering of the ALT Hotel at 199 Slater Street.

Montreal-based Group Germain Hospitalité is set to open a 148-room, 17-storey hotel under its ALT brand as part of a mixed-use building that developer Broccolini will construct at 199 Slater St., between Bank and O’Connor streets.

The two companies held a ceremonial groundbreaking for the project – which will also include condominium units – on Wednesday.

It came one day after Minto Properties said Tuesday that it is planning to convert its Minto Suite Hotel on Lyon Street to residential suites and focus on its core real estate business.

But Hugo Germain, Group Germain’s director of development, said he’s unfazed by the business decisions of other firms.

“For us it doesn’t change much because obviously we think we’ve come up with something new and refreshing,” said Mr. Germain, wearing a white hard hat as he stood on the site where the building is going to be located.

He said Group Germain’s situation is different because its three-star ALT brand is designed to appeal to a different market than many of the other hotels in the city.

ALT hotels are built around Germain’s “no frills chic” concept, which means offering smaller rooms that don’t have amenities such as baggage handlers or free newspapers. This allows the company to offer rooms at lower rates, said Mr. Germain.

He said the building’s downtown location means the company is marketing the hotel primarily towards business visitors during the week. However it’s also anticipating the proximity to the city’s tourist destinations will make it popular with pleasure visitors on the weekend.

He also anticipates the hotel will have the same rental rates year-round, rather than raising them during high-demand peak periods.

“We’re going to be working with a pricing strategy that is flat all the year so that we are able to have a guest that knows exactly what he expects when he gets into a room,” he said.

Minto’s closure of its hotel on Lyon Street makes it the latest longtime player to get out of the downtown market.

The National Hotel & Suites at 361 Queen St. permanently closed late last year. The building’s manager, Morguard Corp., said it planned to look at repositioning the asset but that it would more than likely reopen as a hotel.

Mr. Germain said it’s normal for hotels to have to undergo renovations every once in a while.

“It’s not a sign that the industry is not vigorous,” he said. “It’s a cycle with hotels that need to be renovated.”

The ALT hotel in Ottawa is set to open in winter of 2015, according to Group Germain’s website. In 2014 the city’s tourism officials are anticipating it will be “challenging” for area hotels.

Meanwhile 75 per cent of the units in the 23-storey condominium project are sold, according to a press release for Wednesday’s ceremonial groundbreaking.

 

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