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PBA begins first downtown Calgary office-to-hotel conversion

12-storey, 170,000-square-foot building to become Element Hotel by Westin

PBAGroup of Companies will convert a former Calgary office building into an extended stay Element Hotel by Westin, a first in the city. (Courtesy PBA)
PBA Group of Companies will convert a former Calgary office building into an extended- stay Element Hotel by Westin, a first in the city. (Courtesy PBA)

Calgary-based real estate company PBA Group of Companies, with U.S.-based partner Concord Hospitality, is repurposing an older 12-storey former office building in downtown Calgary and converting it into a hotel.

The Canadian Centre, built in 1982 at 833 4th Ave. S.W, will become the Element Hotel by Westin - a 226-suite hotel with fully furnished, extended-stay units. 

Demolition is complete and construction is now underway. Project completion is slated for the summer of 2025.

James Scott, senior vice-president, planning and development, PBA Group of Companies, said the Element Hotel is the first hospitality project as part of the Downtown Calgary Development Incentive Program.

It will remove another 170,000 square feet of unused office space from the city's core.

PBA acquired property for hotel conversion

Scott said PBA purchased the property in November 2022 specifically for a hotel conversion through the incentive program. 

“We completed The Dorian hotel on 5th Avenue (S.W.) and that’s been up and running and doing really well since we opened that in July of 2022," Scott said. "So, this fits into our growth strategy in terms of diversifying into the hospitality sector.

“The other reason we looked at this is there is an opportunity right now to satisfy growing demand for additional room capacity in downtown Calgary, which is also helping, we think, drive economic impact in the city.

"I think Tourism Calgary is forecasting . . . 8.7 million visitors to Calgary this year and $3.2 billion in tourism revenue.

"So we see tourism and the visitation economy as a growth sector. The province is promoting it, too, and supporting it over the next 10 years. We think this hospitality option, being The Element which is an extended-stay hotel, will help cater to that increase in demand that we’re going to be seeing.”

The rationale for an extended-stay hotel

Scott said he expects business travel to grow as well as the economies of the city and the province.

“An extended-stay, all-suites hotel is very similar to an apartment building. You have a small kitchen. You have cooking facilities. You have a refrigerator that’s bigger than the one in a traditional hotel room. You have a microwave," Scott explained. 

"There are similarities (to a residential apartment conversion). The lobby also is somewhat similar to a residential building. Obviously there will be a person in the lobby, an attendant for check-in and such. But it has more of a residential feel.

“And so, the construction method is very similar to an apartment building. The main difference is that of course you’re putting in furnishings, which you wouldn’t put in an apartment building unless you’re building a furnished apartment building. 

“But the core build is very similar to an apartment building in terms of building code, ventilation requirements for cooking facilities, all that stuff. It’s very similar. And the units are smaller typically than an apartment, but that’s the main difference.”

Amenities and features of The Element

James Scott, senior vice-president, planning and development, PBA Group of Companies. (Courtesy PBA)
James Scott, senior vice-president, planning and development, PBA Group of Companies. (Courtesy PBA)

According to PBA, The Element will have the following amenities: 

  • an elevated lobby lounge and café;
  • an upscale casual dining experience on the 12th floor;
  • common areas with shared spaces to cook, gather and unwind within shared kitchen and living room areas;
  • meeting rooms;
  • a state-of-the-art fitness centre.

PBA said sustainability and value-add features will include: 

  • Use of recycled materials in design and construction. The project has diverted 572,000 kilograms of demolition waste from the landfill, which equates to 65 per cent of the project's total demolition waste;
  • water conservation through low-flow fixtures;
  • vehicle charging stations;
  • motion fitness centre;
  • a bike-sharing program.

Scott said the new BMO Centre, the largest convention and event space in Calgary, will increase demand for hotel space in the city, particularly in the downtown.

“Anyone we’ve talked to that projects, forecasts, hotel demand is saying there is a shortage and there will be an exacerbated shortage once the BMO expansion opens. That was one of the other reasons we were looking at progressing another hotel development in downtown Calgary - close to transit, close to the LRT,” he said.

“There is a deficit in Calgary.”

BMO Centre to increase hotel demand

At over one million square feet, the new BMO Centre will be the newest, largest and most modern convention centre in Western Canada. It is also to feature a new hotel.

In late 2022, Calgary Municipal Land Corporation and the Calgary Stampede announced a partnership with Matthews Southwest Hospitality to build the BMO Convention Centre Hotel - a 220-room facility which is to be connected with the BMO Centre.

Construction has not yet started on the BMO Convention Centre hotel – CMLC, the Calgary Stampede and Matthews Southwest Hospitality are developing a model analysis for the hotel and advancing funding conversations, and construction timelines will be defined in due course, according to the CMLC.

The grand opening for the expanded BMO Centre is June 5 and the public will be invited to tour the building for the first time on June 8.

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