A pair of local developers is looking to shake up Prince Albert’s hotel industry.
On Tuesday, Mayor Greg Dionne made a joint announcement with father-son business team Abdul and Faizan Hirani. The Hiranis plan to build an 82-suite four-star hotel at the intersection of 39th Street and Fourth Avenue West.
Construction on the $15-million project will begin this fall, pending final approval from city council on Oct. 16. It’s expected to create roughly 70 new jobs once completed.
The Hiranis say the hotel is designed to be a higher-end development, filling a need that’s not being met in the current market.
“Normally, when any top executive comes to the city, they drive back to Saskatoon. They don’t want to stay in P.A.,” Abdul said. “We want to build something we’re proud of, and the city (is) proud of it and then these executives who come to work or visit P.A. can stay in the city.”
“Some of the WHL teams who come by and play our Raiders here, they like to go and stay in Saskatoon. Those are the type of businesses that we want to keep in our city and make sure they’re spending money here, using our facilities here,” Faizan added. “It’s definitely a unique product and we’re very excited to get it started.”
The Hirani’s plan to use the Best Western Premier luxury boutique hotel model, which they say allows for more flexibility in the overall design. There are only three such hotels in Canada, and 22 in the United States.
The original goal was to have the hotel open for the 2018 Junior Men’s World Softball Championships in July 2018, but construction likely won’t finish until after the tournament.
The hotel will include a lounge, a 6,500 square foot off sale liquor store, a gym and several conference rooms. The plan also includes a space for an adjacent restaurant on the property, as well as another luxury hotel. Construction on the second hotel would begin as soon as the first one is completed.
“We definitely have plans to grow further,” Faizan said. “When we initially looked at the site, we put a hotel on it and we came to the realization that we have enough space to put up another (development), if we needed.”
The Hiranis have been in the Prince Albert hotel business since 2008. They say customer feedback shows the market is there for a luxurious, state-of-the-art hotel, even if it means paying an extra $30 or $40 a night.
“Price isn’t really something that’s on the top of their list,” Faizan explained. “Good amenities, good service, these are things they care more about, not necessarily price.”
“We believe in the city and we’ve progressed every year since (2008),” Abdul added. “It’s an answer to (developments in Saskatoon and Regina) too. Our city is great. This kind of project can work here.”
Prince Albert Mayor Greg Dionne said the city did give some incentives to spur the project’s development, however the details won’t be released until Oct. 12.
Overall, Dionne praised the deal as a great development for Prince Albert.
“They have committed to use as much local construction as they can, and we have faith in that and that’s exciting for us,” he said. “As we know we are in a slowdown, so anything that we can do as a city to help our local contractors get work, we’re more than pleased to do that.”
There were some difficulties around getting permits for the offsale due to changes in provincial law. In fact, the entire project was placed in jeopardy after the initial application was rejected.
Dionne worked as a go-between for the developers and Prince Albert Carlton MLA Joe Hargrave to get the project approved. In an interview prior to the announcement, Hargrave said the situation simply involved a miscommunication between the city and the province. He added that he was pleased to see the development move forward.
Dionne said Hargrave deserved credit for working with the city to get the deal done.
“I was pleased that Joe got involved,” he said. “Even though you may not see Joe around, we’re in contact every week…. He was at the cabinet table, and that’s why this got done.”
Chamber lauds new development
Prince Albert Chamber of Commerce CEO Larry Fladager says the development of a luxury hotel is something Prince Albert desperately needs.
Speaking shortly after the end of Tuesday’s announcement, Fladager was excited to see such an investment, which he says will help grow the city and spur further investment.
“Really, there is a market for a higher end hotel in the City of Prince Albert. I’ve heard that from many, many folks, and it’s exciting to see that they are willing to invest in that, because if we’re going to grow the city and we’re going to grow the businesses in this city, we need the options for people to come and stay here, look at the city, have a quality experience staying in hotels, and this is the need that’s being met here.”
Fladager said the spinoff jobs in fields like service and construction would also be positives for the project.
“We are, and should be, branding ourselves as the service sector for Northern Saskatchewan, and you need to do that in all sorts of ways, not just in the lower end. You need to have some high end options for people as well, keep them from going to other communities south of us.”
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