When the doors to Delta Hotels Ltd.’s new Toronto location officially open at the end of November, it will mark the culmination of a vision that is looking more prescient with every new attraction, office tower or development that decides to call the city’s south core home.
Delta Hotels’ parent company, the pension fund British Columbia Investment Management Corp., acquired the 3.25-acre plot of land more than five years ago, but given the burgeoning neighbourhood that is taking shape south of the train tracks, the timing and location of the project, situated between York Street and Lower Simcoe Street, is a powerful one-two combination.
“I think that now is the right time,” says Ken Greene, president and CEO of Delta Hotels. “It’s a multiuse project, but with a single-purpose-built hotel and the two office buildings that are around, it allows for us to build a 46-floor hotel that will be a flagship for the brand.
“We’re sort of centre ice in terms of the entire project, and I think, quite frankly, the glue for that whole community.”
The first of the two office buildings that make up the South Core Financial Centre, the 26-storey PwC Tower, was completed in 2011 and is now fully leased. The second, the 30-storey Bremner Tower, is scheduled to be completed in September. But the hotel, the first single-purpose hotel to be built in Toronto in more than 20 years, is a landmark for Delta and the Canadian hospitality industry. (Other recent Toronto hotels have included residential components.)
The Canadian company is embarking on a comprehensive rebranding program to bring all of its properties up to the four-star, full-service classification, which Mr. Greene terms the “sweet spot.” Delta has 39 locations across Canada. The Delta Toronto will boost that figure to 40; the Delta Waterloo will bring it up to 41 by year end.
“Maybe we’ve been a bit of a dusty brand for a while,” Mr. Greene says, “but we’re a major player in the marketplace, we’re two-and-a-half, three-times larger than our major competitors in terms of number of properties throughout Canada.”
The competition, from Mr. Greene’s perspective, is defined as the Marriott, Hilton, Sheraton and Westin hotel chains. In trying to position the Delta brand at the forefront of the four-star market, there were internal casualties, and some older properties were let go as it didn’t make financial sense to upgrade them to the four-star level. Canada’s largest hotel, the former Delta Chelsea Toronto, was one such casualty. It was taken over by Langham Hospitality Group and was rebranded as the Eaton Chelsea last year.
But the buzz created by the Delta’s new downtown location has more than made up for the pain in leaving the past behind. Developed by BCIMC along with GWL Realty Advisors Inc., and designed by Page + Steele/IBI Group Architects, the hotel will feature 567 guest rooms and a 230-seat restaurant, and it is primed to capitalize on an emerging urban neighbourhood.
To the immediate east is the Air Canada Centre, home of the Maple Leafs and Raptors, Union Station and a multitude of new office space, while neighbours within a stone’s throw to the west include the Rogers Centre, home of the Blue Jays, the CN Tower, the Metro Toronto Convention Centre and downtown’s newest tourist attraction – Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada.
“It’s right in the heart of the action,” says Bill Tom, vice-president, architecture and construction for Delta Hotels. “It’s entertainment, it’s residential, it’s businesses. It’s almost a mini-ecosystem if you will, where we sort of help anchor that community in the south core.”
The Delta couldn’t have timed its arrival in the south core any better. The Pan Am Games are set to dominate Southern Ontario’s entire Golden Horseshoe area next summer, with the NBA All-Star weekend taking place at the ACC the year after.
But while the games played by the Toronto Raptors, Toronto Maple Leafs and Toronto Blue Jays will help fill rooms mainly on weekends, the Monday-Friday workweek will be the Delta’s meat and potatoes, giving convention-goers more options when it comes to staying close to the MTCC.
“We’re thrilled to add more inventory adjacent to the convention centre,” says David Whitaker, president of Tourism Toronto. “We’re already hosting some of the top meetings, whether it was two summers ago when we hosted the Microsoft global convention, 17,000 delegates. They’re coming back in the future.
“And Swift Sibos, one of the top international banking conventions in the world that was here several years ago  and is coming back in 2017.”
Despite a glut of hotels opening in Toronto in the past few years, particularly at the five-star level, Toronto is undergoing something of a tourism resurgence following the economic downturn of 2008. The Delta feels its new location will benefit from the competition.
“The market has matured to the point where there is a demand for the five-star category, and that’s the tide that floats all boats,” says Jean-Luc Barone, managing director for Delta. “So this is good for the hospitality business at large in the city.”
The hotel also separates itself from its competition with a distinctive look. The tower’s north and south glass portions are separated by a dark glass reveal on the east and west facades that will light up at night. As lead architect Mansoor Kazerouni puts it, the Delta Toronto “will rapidly become an important part of the city’s architectural identity as it assumes its prominent position in the skyline.”
As for the unique white flecks that contrast starkly with the blue glass on the south aspect of the building, Mr. Kazerouni likens them to bubbles rising up through a glass of champagne.
But any discussion on the Delta Toronto will always come back to its location in the heart of the south core.
“It’s great to have a hotel there, because if you just had three office buildings you wouldn’t have had anything that’s really pulling 24/7 activity,” Mr. Tom says. “I think that complements the residences that are there and obviously having a hotel there with all the entertainment helps weekends for Toronto.”