Real Estate News Exchange (RENX)
c/o Squall Inc.
P.O. Box 1484, Stn. B
Ottawa, Ontario, K1P 5P6
Canada: 1-855-569-6300

Downtown Vancouver hotel development 'makes sense': Hallmark CEO

Years of bureaucracy, complex site big issues as firm seeks final OKs for 12-storey West Broadway AC Hotel

Rendering of the proposed AC Hotels by Marriott, to be developed along the West Broadway corridor in Vancouver by Hallmark Hospitality. (Courtesy Zeidler Architects/Hallmark)
Rendering of the proposed AC Hotel by Marriott, to be developed along the West Broadway corridor in Vancouver by Hallmark Hospitality. (Courtesy Zeidler Architecture/Hallmark)

Hallmark Hospitality has submitted its latest plans for a much-needed 151-room hotel development on West Broadway in Vancouver. While the firm is anxious to move ahead, dealing with years of bureaucracy and a highly complex site has posed significant challenges.

Zeidler Architecture is the designer behind the hotel at 901 West Broadway, at the northwest corner of Laurel Street just north of the Vancouver General Hospital campus. The hotel is proposed within the City of Vancouver’s Broadway Plan, which aims to transform Broadway into a high-density corridor over the next 30 years.

The design features a 12-storey tower with 151 guest rooms and a three-level parkade. The building will also include a restaurant at street level. The developer and designer behind the AC Hotel Marriott-branded lodging say the hotel will focus on servicing younger tourists, corporate travellers and hospital visitors.  

Following rezoning advisory panel comments and feedback from the City of Vancouver, Zeidler submitted an updated design as part of a development application late last year. 

Adding new hotel rooms an easy business choice

Adding more hotel rooms to a market that is dramatically under-served is a business no-brainer according to Almunir Remtulla, president of Hallmark Hospitality.

“Vancouver enjoys the best occupancy and average daily room rates in Canada and so the numbers make sense,” he told RENX. 

The cost of land, shortage of development sites and slow bureaucratic approvals process in Vancouver means anyone who can get a hotel built will see plenty of demand, Remtulla said.

“Put it in context: We bought this property in 2017 and we are now into the seventh year, and we're still waiting for the development permit.”

Remtulla said the property will be operated by AC Hotels by Marriott.

The Zeidler team needed to create a design that responded to the city’s feedback and the complexity of the site.

It’s located on a sloped street with limited car access adjacent to the new Millenium line subway station, beneath the Vancouver hospital emergency helicopter flight path corridor. It also has BC Hydro infrastructure on the property.

James Brown, a partner with Zeidler, said rezoning concluded last year and the firm submitted its development permit application in December. "Right now, it's with the city and we're expecting to get the first round of comments back towards the end of March for (the) development permit."

Brown said the hotel will contribute to the transformation of the Broadway corridor and provide much-needed hotel rooms for the city.

"We approached the design as an opportunity to provide an exceptional experience for guests and pedestrians alike which has ultimately resulted in a better building,” Brown explained.

He said the design activates each side of the building while animating the façade and elevating the street-level experience along West Broadway and Laurel.

The hotel’s main design feature is a gradated façade that connects to a solid, brick-laced podium which pays homage to historic buildings on Broadway. 

West Broadway emerging as "expansion of downtown" 

The development site is located across from the future SkyTrain Oak-VGH Station, placing it on the doorstep of region-wide connectivity. 

Remtulla said most of the Hallmark ownership group has lived in Vancouver over the decades and has seen the Broadway corridor emerge as an expansion of downtown Vancouver.

"Arguably, from an accommodations point of view, (Broadway) could even in some instances prove to be more desirable,” he said, adding they’re expecting demand from a variety of tourists, especially younger visitors, but also hope to see plenty of corporate guests.

Being adjacent to VGH will also attract many visitors and families who need to be close to loved-ones receiving care. The design includes more than a dozen units with kitchenettes.

Remtulla said the city is an obvious tourism hub, but doesn't have enough lodging space.

It could get even tighter. B.C. has made new regulations to restrict short-term rentals to principal residences and secondary suites in many B.C. communities, including Vancouver, starting on May 1.

That could push more visitors into hotel rooms. 

Destination Vancouver, the city's tourism office, said last year the city needs 21,000 new rooms by 2040 to keep pace with demand. 

Hotel approvals need to speed up, Remtulla said, arguing developers and operators are not “asleep at the wheel.” 

“It just takes forever,” he said. 

Because the new hotel will be on the flight path for the hospital, the designers needed to relocate the mechanical and electrical systems to the podium roof, and the tower rooftop was designed to allow for future amenities or usages without the restrictions of utility systems. 

Among Hallmark's other hotels are: Four Points by Sheraton at Edmonton International Airport; Best Western Plus Toronto Airport Hotel and Best Western Premier Freeport Inn at the Calgary Airport. 

In addition to 901 West Broadway, Zeidler is also leading the design for other hospitality projects in the region including 791 West Georgia, a legacy project where the firm is leading the renovation of the former Four Seasons with Cadillac Fairview, and the Cadillac Fairview Richmond Centre, a mixed-use development that’s being redeveloped to include additional retail space and homes.  

Industry Events