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The Delta Toronto, with its protruding podium and tower, will be the new flagship for Delta Hotels Ltd.

Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail

While construction workers, carpenters and sous chefs apply the finishing touches for the Delta Toronto's official opening on Nov. 27, the hotel's executives, managers and marketing team have been reaching out to make sure the franchise is fully integrated with its new neighbourhood.

The 46-storey Delta Toronto, built on the corner of Bremner Boulevard and Simcoe Street in the city's south core, will be the hotelier's flagship property and the first dedicated standalone hotel to open in Toronto in more than 20 years.

Currently in the midst of a full company revamp across its 40 properties in Canada, Delta Hotels Ltd. has left behind its three-star roots in making the transition into the four-star segment of the hospitality industry.

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Other luxury hotels have opened in Toronto in the past five years – the Trump, the Shangri-La, the Four Seasons, the Ritz-Carlton – but all of those have been mixed-use projects, with the hotel on the bottom floors and condominiums on the upper floors.

"The obvious benefit of being standalone is it does allow for us to have a singular focus on serving the guests," says Charles McKee, Delta's vice-president of marketing. "When you have a mixed-use condo-hotel, you're balancing the needs of the guests with the needs of the residents."

Like other newcomers to the growing area, Delta wasted little time getting involved in the recently formed South Core Innovation Hub, a group of trend-setting companies which congregate every six weeks to debate and discuss ways to improve working practices, across different disciplines.

As a result, Delta will now be able to share its expertise in the hospitality industry with the likes of Cisco Systems Canada Co., PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, Telus Corp. and Porter Airlines Inc.

"We've been talking a lot about brain circulation in this area, not even just in our own towers and not even just in our own south core," says Ted Graham, an innovation leader with PwC and one of the initial organizers behind the South Core Innovation Hub. "We love the fact that Porter brings people and many entrepreneurs into and out of the Island Airport.

"We had the [Metro Toronto Convention Centre] bring in a bunch of astronauts a couple of weeks ago. We see Delta complementing that brain circulation."

Delta was certainly welcomed to the area by some of the long-term residents; Steam Whistle Brewing at the old railway roundhouse offered its facilities free of charge when the hotel chain was conducting a job fair to hire its front-of-house and service staff.

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Delta was quick to reciprocate, for example, offering PwC employees discount rates on some of its 567 rooms when they have their Christmas party at the convention centre.

Steam Whistle has joined with other south core tenants, such as Ripley's Aquarium of Canada and the CN Tower in forming official partnerships with the new hotel. Given that Ripley's is projected to draw about two million guests with its first year of operation just completed, alongside the tower's 1.5 million visitors annually and the convention centre's 200,000 overnight stays a year, the Delta's location on the doorstep of those three attractions, and halfway between two of the city's main sports-concert venues, the Air Canada Centre and the Rogers Centre, is one to be envied.

Delta is particularly excited about the addition of the new Pearson Express link from Union Station to Toronto's main airport, expected to open in spring of 2015. It will deliver guests into the warmth and comfort of the city's enclosed PATH walkway system mere metres from the hotel. The hotel developer, bcIMC, paid for a new portion of the PATH system that runs above Simcoe Street to ensure hotel guests would have easy access.

"I don't want to underestimate the impact of the Pearson Express," says Ken Greene, CEO of Delta Hotels. "I think that's going to be a huge thing for the SoCo area and specifically for Delta.

"The fact that you can get on to the high-speed train at the airport without ever stepping outside and in 25 minutes get downtown and enter into the Delta hotel without ever walking outside is a huge driver."

From a local community standpoint, the most welcome addition of the Delta complex may well be the new SoCo Kitchen and Bar restaurant. Situated in the podium, the restaurant is deliberately thrust into the streetscape, while the hotel tower is set back from the sidewalk.

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The south core area is massively underserved when it comes to eatery choices, says a market research survey conducted by San Francisco's Puccini Group on Delta's behalf. Given the throng of condominium towers that has shot toward the sky in recent years, the Delta aims to serve the neighbourhood, nearby business people and tourist traffic alike.

To counter the long-held perception of hotel restaurants being overpriced and somewhat stuffy eating venues, Delta purposely is placing the SoCo Kitchen and Bar at a price point below high-end restaurants nearby such as e11even at Maple Leaf Square.

"We don't want to say that it's the restaurant at the Delta Toronto," says Valerie Brive, marketing manager for the Delta Toronto. "So we are really promoting it as a separate entity in the community."

Delta anticipates that the demand for hotel rooms in downtown Toronto will be much higher than the 2.7-per-cent rise that PKF Consulting Canada predicted for this year, and though it's happy to break the maxim that building a standalone hotel in a major market these days is almost impossible, it admits that for many independent operators that may well be the case.

"It's not an easy thing to do," Mr. Greene says. "Delta's in a very unique position. We're the dominant player in the four-star, full-service segment in Canada, we own distribution, we're two and a half, three times larger than any of our competitors in the space in Canada and the fact that we own 30 per cent of the portfolio puts us in a very unique position to be able to do something like this.

"So we look at this property opening in downtown Toronto as being not only a great standalone property, but it's also a billboard for the Delta brand."

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