Sunday, December 21, 2014

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Groundbreaking for hotel expected in mid-August - Jul. 18, 2014

Kathy Bockus
St. Stephen
Developer Tom McFarlane says shovels will be in the ground in mid-August to begin construction on the long anticipated hotel project along the downtown waterfront.
However, there have been some major changes to the project.
“It’s been a major redesign, but all for the better,” said McFarlane. He explained that while it didn’t appear to the public that anything was happening with the hotel project, he has been busy “behind the scenes,” fine-tuning the proposal.
“I think we’ve nailed it,” said McFarlane. “It’s going to be a great project and a great property for the town. I’m very proud of it.”
One major change is that of the hotel’s name. The hotel was originally designated as Best Western Premier St. Stephen Hotel and Suites.
The hotel will now be named Best Western Plus St. Stephen Hotel and Suites, in keeping with designations of similar hotels in the chain found in the rest of New Brunswick.
“The premier designation is usually reserved for resorts,” explained McFarlane. “We’re still building to a lot of premier standards.”
McFarlane said his company, Spur Line Properties Inc., is finalizing the deal with his equity partners on the project and that the contract with Bird Construction has been signed. He expects to announce shortly the date of the ground breaking ceremonies and expects the hotel to be open for business in June of 2015.
McFarlane said design changes to the hotel have reduced its construction cost from the $15 million first estimated. He declined to reveal the new price of the construction.
“The overall cost of construction has been reduced and the value of the property increased.”
McFarlane said there have also been many positive changes made in the hotel’s design that help in the operational side of the hotel project.
The number of guest rooms and suites hotel rooms has been increased from 71 to 86. The additional guest rooms were made possible by a reduction in the size of the conference facility, from 3,000 square feet to 1,200 square feet.
“The civic centre has large conference space, so we’ve chosen to add more rooms. There’s no need to be in direct competition with the civic centre,” said McFarlane.
The hotel will also feature 10 long-term stay apartments – four, two bedroom and six, one bedroom - facing the St. Croix River for rent or lease on the fourth floor of the hotel. Advertising for those is expected to begin this week. McFarlane is calling those apartments a great opportunity for investment.
To help with costs and to keep the construction budget in line, McFarlane said the 60-seat restaurant and patio as well as the pool will now be contained in the hotel proper instead of in separate buildings. There will be cost savings from this change because there is now no need to drive additional pilings that would have supported restaurant and pool buildings, reducing the hotel’s overall footprint.
This also allows for more parking spaces – a total of 170 slots - which can be utilized by the hotel and the adjacent Garcelon Civic Center. The option remains for future development of additions to the hotel.
The spa has been moved to ground level and is tied in with the pool and fitness centre.
The hotel, as currently proposed, will also feature a waterfront bar - a pergola and outside bar area that will sit by the walking trail along the waterfront. Between the waterfront bar and the hotel will be enough space to erect a large tent which McFarlane said can be used for weddings or business events.
“It turns outside space into a meeting area.”