Vancouver hotel gets a facelift

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 03 October, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 03 October, 2007, 12:00am

How long does it take for a building to be reborn? Ask Vancouver developer Bruce Langereis, who is renovating one of the beloved heritage hotels of the Pacific Northwest city.

Mr Langereis will tell you that the rebirth of the 80-year-old Hotel Georgia, which started this summer, will be finished in time for the 2010 Winter Olympics.

Singapore-based Delta Group, with Mr Langereis as its president and chief executive, is spending C$400 million (HK$3.13 billion) on the restoration and the addition of a 48-storey condominium tower with 155 luxury units.

Floor plans range in size from 635 square feet to the 6,872 sqft penthouse. At 150 metres, the tower will make its mark on the city skyline as the third tallest building in Vancouver. It is already being considered one of the city's most lavish addresses.

The Hotel Georgia, one of the symbols of Vancouver's rise to prominence, will be transformed into a modern boutique luxury hotel with restored facade, ballroom and wood-panelled lobby. The guest rooms will double in size, reducing their number by about half to 170.

The hotel amenities, among them the 55-foot ozonated lap pool, a fitness centre with a yoga studio, a spa, a courtyard, a screening room and a wine cellar, will be available to owners of the private residences.

Delta started to pitch the hotel to international investors in June, when it flew in the top tier of Sotheby's International Realty advisers for an exclusive preview.

'There's no doubt that Vancouver's high-end real estate is now garnering serious international attention,' said Mr Langereis.

The redevelopment of the site on Howe Street has been in the making for some time. Bing Thom, a well-known local architect, designed a spectacular crystal tower for previous owners. That project did not go ahead.

Delta has now redesigned the building complete with underground parking and a C$16 million seismic upgrade that will give the hotel a second lease of life of at least 80 years.

Built in 1927, the Hotel Georgia was Vancouver's second-largest and the darling of many international celebrities.

Entertainers such as Frank Sinatra, Louis Armstrong and the Rolling Stones liked to stay at the Georgia because it was only a jump from the downtown nightclubs where they performed. Artists preferred the spacious corner suites that could be used for entertaining, and Hollywood royalty like John Wayne, Katharine Hepburn and Marlene Dietrich were frequent guests.

'A critical part of the new design is increasing our heritage commitment. We want to be respectful of the history here,' said Mr Langereis.

Another important theme next to luxury and heritage will be the environment. The new Hotel Georgia will have access to geothermal energy for heating and cooling. Solar panels, installed on the southern side of the building, will provide clean energy.

In June, the developer signed up a new manager for the property when it reopens in 2010, engaging the services of the Valencia Group, an upstart luxury hotelier based in Houston, Texas. But the Hotel Georgia will keep its name and function as a standalone hotel.

The sale of the condominium units began with a reservation programme last month. Selection of buyers will be on October 19. Prices range from C$605,000 for a one-bedroom unit to C$1.59 million for a two-bedroom affair plus den and C$6.64 million for a sub-penthouse.

Most of the potential buyers are from British Columbia, some from the US and Europe, and a smaller group from Asia, mainly Koreans.