There’s been a lot of buzz surrounding Hyatt Place Ottawa West – and not just because the new hotel has a rooftop hive that accommodates 50,000 to 70,000 bees, depending on the season.
Since opening last spring, the 140-room hotel in Bells Corners was chosen as one of the best new properties by Hyatt Corporation.
As well, the Hyatt Place Ottawa West received the Green Key Award from the Hotel Association of Canada for implementing eco-friendly and sustainable practices. It uses geothermal energy for heating and cooling, has 225 solar panels installed on its roof to supplement its energy consumption, offers on-site electric vehicle charging stations, is committed to eliminating single-use plastics, and buys and sources locally whenever possible.
And then there are its high-flying guests, the bees. They help with the pollination of flowers in the area and produce locally grown honey.
On Wednesday, Hyatt Place Ottawa West hosted a reception to celebrate its one-year anniversary, inviting guests to mingle over food and drinks while surrounded by the relaxing sounds of live harp music.
The gathering showcased such local businesses as Whitewater Brewing Company and Vodkow, a sustainable and carbon-neutral vodka from Dairy Distillery. As well, the hotel invited some of its neighbours, including Paul Meek, owner of nearby Kichesippi Beer.
The hotel has tried to immerse itself in the community, helping out whenever it can, said GM Alison Hunter while proudly adding that the business has hired seven new Ukrainian refugees to its staff.
"We have a big name on the building but we're a little guy, just like all these other mom and pop businesses, and we want to help all the other little guys," she said.
Ottawa Tourism CEO Michael Crockatt and Ottawa Gatineau Hotel Association president Steve Ball popped in before heading to another reception honouring the 40-year career of Jonathon Harris from the Ontario Ministry of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries.
The new hotel is a good sign for the region, said Ball. “It shows confidence in the industry.”
Observed right outside the hotel is a big silver maple tree that the owners went to great effort and expense to preserve during the construction phase. In the front lobby hangs a large mixed-media artwork of the Ottawa River and surrounding area by local artist Helen Wright.
The reception made up for the fact that the hotel quietly opened during the spring of 2021, when there were still strict travel restrictions in place. The anniversary party was originally slated for late last month but had to be postponed due to the massive storm that swept through parts of the province.
“It has been a wonderful year of ups and downs and downs and up and sideways, and sideways again, but here we are celebrating one year of existence, and what a ride it’s been,” Hunter said in her brief welcome remarks.
She was joined by Ottawa businessmen Cal Kirkpatrick and Steve Kaminski, who, along with Jan Kaminski, own Hyatt Place Ottawa West through their hotel ownership group Stolat Hotels. Stolat, a Polish phrase that means 100 years, is often used to congratulate someone during a toast or to wish them longevity.
The owners said they created an eco-friendly, sustainable hotel operation – without any government subsidy – because they believe it to be good business. They said they recognize the long-term benefits for both the hotel and the environment.
“I think everyone should do their part, but it has to make financial sense,” said Kaminski, who’s also a partner in terra20, a retail chain specializing in a wide range of environmentally friendly merchandise. “We’re not trying to change the world by saying that we’re going to do all kinds of things that are economically unviable. They’re all economically viable.”
The owners touched on some of the challenges of building and opening a new hotel during the pandemic, giving a special shout-out to Shawn Hickey from the construction industry for driving the project forward.
The hotel is located at 300 Moodie Dr., just north of Robertson Road, on property that Kaminski’s father bought in 1963.
The site was completely shut down on two occasions early in the pandemic because it was deemed non-essential construction, as well as another two times due to COVID outbreaks on site. The hotel also saw some of its cargo containers with kitchen supplies and furniture delayed for months off the coast of Vancouver.
“Other than that, it went smooth as silk,” said Kirkpatrick, tongue in cheek.
Business has improved dramatically. In fact, the hotel was fully booked on the day of the anniversary party, said director of sales Andrew Horsfield.
“May was absolutely spectacular and June is shaping up very well, as well,” he added.
Hyatt Place Ottawa West is the owners' first hotel investment. "I don't know what our next step is – I have to be honest with you," said Kaminski. "The whole pandemic thing scared the hell out of me."
Still, they are serial entrepreneurs, as Kirkpatrick pointed out.
“I never say no to anything,” he joked. “The answer six, seven months ago would have been, ‘Absolutely not.’ The answer today is, ‘Yeah, maybe.’”