It’s down to the finishing touches on a newly built hotel that’s going to help transform an entire city block into a bustling social and cultural hub for visitors and residents alike.
Come early May, Le Germain Hotel Ottawa at 30 Daly Ave. will be open for business. The luxury boutique hotel occupies the first 14 floors of a newly constructed 23-storey tower. The upper nine floors are condo suites developed by Montreal-based DevMcGill.
The public-private mixed-use development project also boasts a redeveloped Arts Court, new theatre and learning space for the University of Ottawa, and a renovated and expanded Ottawa Art Gallery (OAG), which gets credit for getting the ball rolling on the ambitious development, located downtown just south of the Rideau Centre and ByWard Market.
The hotel is owned by Group Germain Hotels, a family-owned Quebec-based company led by co-presidents and siblings Jean-Yves Germain and Christiane Germain (she’s a panelist on the Quebec adaptation of the reality television show Dragons’ Den). Because it's a smaller hotel chain, the mixed-use formula makes it more affordable for the company to build in bigger cities.
The new hotel in Ottawa will bring the number of Le Germain Hotels in Canada to 16.
“As part of our Canadian expansion, it was ‘a must’ for us to set up shop in the nation’s capital,” public relations manager Julie Tremblay told OBJ during a media tour of the new building, where the dress code called for hard hats and steel-toed boots. “We’re a Canadian family company, and we’re proud of that fact. Our aim is to be the first Canadian independent hotelier to have a presence from coast to coast.”
The scaffolding and sawdust have yet to be replaced with furniture, bedding and art, but already the design theme of light and shadows is taking shape. The hotel is the creation of Montreal’s Lemay Michaud Architecture Design. By using a soft mix of timeless materials, such as wood, stone and metal, it's striving to create an elegant but comfortable atmosphere for guests.
The hotel chain is big on promoting Canadian artists. The guest rooms feature artwork by photographer Julie Couture, and the hotel plans to have works hanging in its lobby that complement the exhibitions showing at the neighbouring OAG, which reopens April 28.
Group Germain Hotels has privately invested between $40 million and $45 million in its Ottawa hotel and has hired between 60 and 75 employees, with plans to add more.
The new hotel has 107 rooms, eight suites and five meeting rooms, plus event spaces. It offers deluxe continental breakfast, concierge service, a fitness centre, free Wi-Fi and indoor heated parking for cars, as well as charging stations for electric vehicles. It’s not only dog friendly but also eco-friendly, with features such as geothermal heating and cooling systems.
Le Germain prides itself on going the extra mile for guests. It offers complimentary Lexus car service. For those who like a slower start to their day, there’s no morning checkout time to worry about.
Alex Kassatly plans to be visible and accessible as the general manager, preferring to work from his laptop in the lobby rather than tucked away in an office. It’s less to do with keeping an eye on the staff, he added, and more to do with having contact with the guests.
“If the client wants something, nobody is saying, ‘I’m sorry but we have to call this manager, who has to call this manager,'” said Kassatly. “If the employees need assistance, we’re there.”
Group Germain Hotels also owns the pared-down and more reasonably priced Alt Hotels, which opened a location in Ottawa in 2016 on Slater Street.
While Le Germain Hotel Ottawa clearly missed out on all the tourism action resulting from our country’s milestone birthday last year, Kassatly is confident the hotel will do well.
“I think we’re in a city that’s vibrant. There’s lots of development and business coming in. I think we’re here at the right time and the right moment.”
On the second floor of the hotel is its new Norca Restaurant & Bar. Its executive chef, Dominique Dufour, is passionate about creating a menu inspired by local ingredients. That’s easier to accomplish these days, she said, with such new innovations as aquaponic farms that can produce fresh and healthy food year round.
“We have such a bountiful country, and have made so many leaps and bounds in agriculture,” added Dufour as she offered bottled maple water as well as organic popcorn flavoured with organic butter, maple syrup and sea salt. That's the kind of tasty treat that guests will receive during their check-in.