Sunday, April 09, 2006

Hoteliers Developing East End's Answer to City's Convention Woes

Completion of a long-awaited conference centre addition to the Hampton Inn on Coventry Road has local hoteliers and tourism officials looking to increase business in the city's east end.

The hotel will unveil its conference facility in early May, with a soft opening taking place later in the summer to coincide with the Ontario Summer Games. The new 24,000 square feet of meeting and conference space, with its large ballroom, lecture halls and other smaller rooms makes, the hotel a mid-range option for meeting planners. It will become the tenth or eleventh largest space in Ottawa.

"It's going to be a really nice addition to the tourism industry," says Franco Falcucci, general manager at the Hampton Inn. "It's a beautiful facility and there's such a lack of space in the city and we're been getting so much demand for trade shows, exhibits and just the day-to-day meetings."

Mr. Falcucci says his hotel has taken a lead in the east end to provide extra space with this addition, which is actually only phase two in a four-part project. An additional 10,000 square feet of meeting space, a restaurant and a full service hotel are also currently under construction and should be completed within the next 18 to 24 months.

The Hampton Inn currently has 179 hotel rooms. Despite its upgraded interior, indoor pool and full amenities, it is officially classified as a "limited" service hotel. In order to provide more space for larger conventions and trade shows, Mr. Falcucci says he has made an informal agreement with the general manager of the Chimo Hotel on St. Laurent Boulevard.

"We're going to be the leader in terms of space, but there are still larger hotels in the area, like the Chimo ... and we're going to work in partnership with them," he says. "If we apply for a lead for a conference that needs 'x' number of rooms, we'll do a partnership with the Chimo's 256 rooms, so we can drive business in the east end."

George Marine, the general manager of the Chimo, says he is pleased with the idea of pooling both hotels' resources together.

"We also just completely renovated our 7,000 square feet of banquet and meeting space," he says. "So, we have two very nice properties and it makes sense to work together and try and attract some of the major conferences to the eastern part of Ottawa."

Mr. Falcucci says the new space at the Hampton will be unique in the area for many reasons. Besides its 10,966 square foot ballroom, which can be divided into seven sections, its main focal point is an impressive 50-foot high windowed atrium.

"The architect used the theme of Bytown and the Rideau River and Ottawa River, so we're using a lot of natural materials with granite and stone and patterns in the floors and walls to look like water," he says. "There are also bridges or walkways to get from one end of the facility to the other on the second floor and he took into consideration elements of the environment, with natural light throughout every room, including the ballroom and even the theatres."

The centre's two theatres, or lecture halls, are also unique to a hotel space, as well as two tiers of underground parking, which have been designed to be more spacious and well-lit than the usual product.

Environmental concerns were also present in the construction process, with the centre likely to seek in the near future certification under the LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, Green Building Rating System.

A complication during construction actually turned into a win-win situation for the hotel and conference centre.

"When we started digging, going 70 feet deep for the two-tiers of parking, we hit natural spring water," says Mr. Falcucci. "As a result, our owner built a three-quarter of a million gallon holding tank out of concrete to hold it. So, we actually tapped into the hotel, the roof of the conference centre and the new development for the hotel and all the rain water will all flow into the tank, get a little bit treated with some chemicals and then be re-pumped into our toilets for water conservation."

The official proprietor of the hotel and conference centre is Bona Building and Management Limited, but Mr. Falcucci says the sole owner is an Ottawa-based businessman who prefers to keep a low profile. There are currently 16 Hampton Inns in Canada and 1,300 in the U.S.

The construction on the project actually started four years ago and Mr. Falcucci says many customers have asked why the development has taken more time then they expected.

"This project is backed by purely one investor and he's a detail man," says Mr. Falcucci. "It's also just the sheer volume because we were our own general contractor, so the excavation process alone took over a year. But, it's been worthwhile because we've been able to take our time, get things just right and make it a nice feature in the east end."

Mr. Falcucci says the centre is already booked well into the fall with a number of trade shows and a major wedding show. The property has also started the process of joining Ottawa Tourism in order to take part in the city's three-per-cent destination marketing fee.

Jacques Burelle, president of Ottawa Tourism, says he is pleased to see the extra meeting and conference space opening in the city.

"It's a serious piece of property that's being added to the landscape here," he says. "For the mid- to small-sized conferences, we can certainly use it in the city. There's a lot of industrial park business that's out in that area, but it's also convenient to the airport, downtown and the train station too for those coming in from Toronto and Montreal."


Post a Comment

<< Home