Hotel manager offers high hopes for Halifax projects

Bird Construction is the general contractor for the redevelopment of the former Citadel Halifax Hotel into two new hotels, a Hampton Inn and a Homewood Suites, to offer visitors a fresh experience during their stay and to enhance the downtown landscape. The site is situated adjacent to the historic Citadel Hill, a 19th century British fort, recognized as a National Historic Sites in Canada. 

As Originally Seen in the Chronicle Herald newspaper :

Two hotels going up at the corner of Cogswell and Brunswick streets will revitalize an area of Halifax that went dormant when the Citadel Hotel closed in January 2012, says the man who will manage both facilities.

The 15-storey hotels are on target to open by April 2014, part of a $60-million project that will include a 17-storey apartment building.

“We really feel that it’s going to enliven that corner of the city,” Trevor Morgan, regional vice-president for SilverBirch Hotels and Resorts, said Friday.

“We’re very excited about what it will mean for that part of Halifax.”

The Homewood Suites will have 135 room and the Hampton Inn, 181.

“The Homewood is a hotel that’s specifically geared to the extended stay traveller,” Morgan said.

The hotels, which will be joined by a shared conference centre, already have some bookings.

“We certainly have had some interest from groups and have booked some groups for the facility post opening next year,” Morgan said.

The occupancy rate for the first year should be around 70 per cent, he said.

“Hopefully, we’ll move up to closer to 80 per cent for the years following that.”

Morgan, who managed the Citadel from 2002 to 2004, will be moving back to Halifax this summer from Fredericton.

He plans to start hiring senior staff this fall.

“Recruitment for the rest of the folks at the hotel will take place in early 2014,” Morgan said, noting the plan is to hire about 120 people.

“We’re hoping that we’re going to get some of our staff back because obviously we had some very loyal and long-term employees. But that remains to be seen.”

Bird Construction is the general contractor on the project. About 150 people are working on the site.

“We’re up to the 13th floor on the Homewood tower and we’re up to the ninth floor on the Hampton Inn,” said Roger Rowsell, Bird’s team leader on the hotels.

“The height of the structures will be complete by the end of June.”

From there, expect to see windows, curtain wall and exterior brick added to the hotels.

“At the same time, we’re proceeding on the interior finishes.”

The apartment complex is starting to come out of the ground, he said.

“That’s going to be probably two to three months behind the hotel completion.”

A five-level parking deck will sit behind the apartment tower, Rowsell said.

“We’re just starting concrete foundations for the parkade.”

Access to the site and finding “lay down” areas for construction materials has been a challenge, Rowsell said.

“We worked with the city to take a portion of the street and the sidewalk along Brunswick Street to give us some room,” he said.

Snow, high winds and cold made for a tough winter of construction.

“Trying to pour concrete, especially elevated structural slabs, through the winter we’ve just gone through certainly had its moments.”

Builders are using natural gas from a line under Brunswick Street to heat the project during construction.

“A lot of the mechanical system in the building, when we’re complete, will be run from natural gas.”

There’s been a lot of highrise construction going on in the city, he said.

“A lot of private developers, in particular, had started on their apartment and condo developments at around the same time that we started this one,” Rowsell said.

“You look around the city and I think at one point in time (during the winter) there was somewhere in the range of 34 or 35 tower cranes in the air, which is certainly quite a significant number for Halifax. So it’s been certainly part of a building boom.”

Finding qualified tradespeople, especially concrete forming crews, “has been a real challenge,” he said.

“We’re through the worst of it. And right now, we’re up to our numbers that we would have liked to have seen a little earlier.”

People can watch the hotel construction live on the Internet via a webcam at
Hotel Manager Offers High Hopes For Halifax Projects : News & Media : Bird Construction