Casual commentary about political, cultural and economic issues with a particular interest on the city of Winnipeg by John Dobbin
Tuesday, December 4, 2012
Place Louis Riel Hotel in Downtown Winnipeg
A combination of factors is responsible for new apartment buildings going up in downtown Winnipeg.
The latest news is that Place Louis Riel Hotel is being converted into apartments following on the heels of York the Hotel (formerly the Sheraton Hotel). In the case of the York, it was cut loose from the Sheraton group due to room size which was a little larger because the hotel was once an apartment block. After a brave attempt to go it alone with a name change and upgrades, it was decided that maybe a move back to apartments was in order. In retrospect, it is a wonder that the 271 room hotel was not made into condos. All this happened around 2008/2009.
Place Louis Riel has been an all suite hotel in the city for decades. Notably it has been a place where the movie industry goes back to repeatedly to house crew who are in town to shoot for weeks. It has also served in recent years as a respite for displaced rural and First Nations people when disaster such as flooding has happened. In fact many aboriginal people have used the hotel as a base due to its location near federal and provincial offices dealing with northern and First Nations affairs.
My impression is that the hotel has made a good go of it. They found their niche, they kept up their facility, had a good and experienced staff and filled their rooms.
However, the writing was on the wall. There has been a hotel building boom going on for some time in the city including some all suite hotels such as the Mainstay Suites near the airport.
Place Louis Riel, built in 1970 and converted into a hotel in the 1980s, was showing its age a bit in terms of the exterior. And despite a valiant effort to upgrade to the 302 units, it was probably thought that there were too many newer and competing hotels coming on the market. Moreover, the move of aboriginal governance to Polo Park in the near future robs the hotel of stable client base.
And this may be the underlying story for some other hotels downtown including the Marlborough Hotel. If aboriginal governance moves to the Polo Park area, does it make sense to stay in hotels downtown? With this is mind, the Edmonton-based owners have decided to get ahead of the game and convert Place Louis Riel back to studio, one and two bedroom units.
It is likely that the venture will be a success since there is a crying need for apartment blocks in Winnipeg due to low vacancy and a steadier economy.
And Place Louis Riel is not the only apartments coming. The snail's pace development of the Assiniboine Avenue apartment seems to have picked up pace. This is no fault of Crystal developers but more on the city who can't seem stop intervening, blocking or dragging out the highrise apartment.
Moreover, an Ontario company has indicated they are looking to invest $80 million for two high rise apartments on a surface lot downtown. Details are very light right now. If true, this will be the largest addition of apartments to the area since the 1980s.
It will be interesting to see how the pieces fit together and whether there will further announcements but the combination of work around the MTS Centre and the Convention Centre and several apartments, hotels and the like could spur other investment to follow.
Let's hope the Jets season comes back soon as this has been an element in bringing people to the area.