International luxury chain Warwick Hotels and Resorts (WHR) has acquired its first property in Canada, the Hotel Le Crystal in downtown Montréal which it plans to reopen in May after a two-year closure.
Located at 1100 Rue de la Montagne at the intersection of Boulevard René-Lévesque, the property is part of a 28-storey, mixed-use podium and tower. The hotel portion comprises Floors 4 through 11 and comprises 131 rooms and suites, which Warwick notes “will be amongst the largest in the city.”
It will be known as the Warwick Le Crystal-Montréal.
Warwick did not disclose financial details of the acquisition, which it said follows its core strategy of “having hotels located in the centre of commercial, cultural and gastronomic activities of international gateway cities.”
The hotel had “temporarily” closed its doors in February of 2021 due to pandemic restrictions, but had not reopened.
"Our group is delighted with this acquisition, which is an excellent addition to our portfolio. Hotel Le Crystal shares many attributes of other Warwick hotels," said Richard Chiu, president and founder of Warwick, in the announcement.
"With its prime location and its spacious and stylishly designed guest rooms, Hotel Le Crystal reflects the DNA of our group," added Clare Chiu, Warwick’s vice-president of development.
"Our guests seek luxurious comfort, excellent service and authentic experiences. This is precisely what Warwick Le Crystal–Montréal will deliver.”
Complex transaction due to strata ownership
The transaction was much more complex than most hospitality trades because of the strata structure of the previous ownership. Colliers Hotels executive managing director Alam Pirani told RENX 126 of the 131 hotel suites were included in the transaction, with the others remaining with previous owners.
Colliers brokered the transaction.
“It was a very complex structure given the individual ownership of strata unit holders," Jessi Carrier, senior vice-president, Colliers Hotels, told RENX. "I do think this was an opportunity for someone to buy a hotel unencumbered with brand and the ability to enter a high-barrier-to-entry market, so from Warwick’s perspective it was a very strategic acquisition.
"In a market that has good growth, it’s a good opportunity for Warwick.”
The building also includes 52 residential condos on Floors 13 through 28 which were not part of the sale.
The underlying syndicate of owners also continue to hold the meeting spaces, which will be operated by Warwick. A restaurant space in the building is also still owned by the original syndicate.
“These strata-type unit structures aren’t common. We’ve done this before in Vancouver with the sale of the Westin Grand, it was a very similar type of a structure," Carrier explained.
"Again, messy and it took a long time to get done . . . I think, from a restructuring point of view it is a good opportunity for someone like Warwick to consolidate ownership.”
Two recent hotel transactions in Montréal
Among a long list of amenities, most of the rooms at le Crystal also have kitchenettes. The hotel offers an indoor swimming pool, a fitness centre, underground parking, the meeting rooms and the Elements Maison de Beauté spa.
At the lobby level is popular Asian restaurant Siam.
The transaction is the second significant hotel to change hands in Montreal in recent weeks. Groupe Mach acquired one of the city’s most iconic hospitality properties, the 357-room InterContinental Montreal, for $80 million earlier this month.
Pirani isn't reading anything more significant into the two sales despite the fact the hotels sector is emerging from a couple of very tough years dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I think it is a bit of a coincidence," Pirani said. "It’s a high-barrier-to-entry market, it’s kind of like Toronto and Vancouver. It isn’t often that you see a lot of downtown core assets trade just because of the profile of (hotel) ownership.
“In these circumstances, Pandox was the seller of the InterContinental . . . it was a strategic decision for them. In this case (Le Crystal), it was an opportunity to fix an asset that was frankly structured inappropriately with individual unitholders.”
Mach plans to spend between $20 to $25 million to refurbish the Intercontinental over the coming months.
Warwick is based in Paris and was founded in 1980 with the purchase of the Warwick New York, a hotel originally built by William Randolph Hearst.
Its portfolio now includes more than 40 hotels, resorts and spas worldwide. The 20-or-so hotels located in the Americas, Europe and the South Pacific are wholly owned and operated by WHR.
Another 20-or-so hotels are either affiliates which participate in sales and marketing activities of the group, or are operated under management contracts, the company states.
Among the cities where it has properties are Paris, New York, London, Geneva, Dallas, Chicago and San Francisco.