CHIL Design remakes Delta Calgary Downtown

Photos courtesy of CHIL Design.

Photos courtesy of CHIL Design.

By Colleen Isherwood, Editor

CALGARY — The property formerly known as Delta Bow Valley, a quintessential business hotel, has a new name and a new vibe thanks to the efforts of CHIL Interior Design, collaborating with Marriott's in-house design experts.

Now known as Delta Hotels by Marriott Calgary Downtown, the property wanted to transition from a typical commuter hotel into a community hub that excited both tourists and locals. They needed a new design strategy. The locale was in fact one of the first Delta hotels in North America to be fully overhauled and updated according to Delta’s new design guidelines. 

The hotel operator, SilverBirch, turned to CHIL, whose portfolio includes Canada’s first ever Aboriginal Arts Hotel, to create something that was local, authentic and nuanced in its design. Adele Rankin, principal of CHIL Interior Design group, the hospitality design studio of B+H Architects, has spearheaded projects across North American and Asia, from big brands like Fairmont to boutique riverboats in Myanmar. CHIL has also worked on other Delta hotels in Vancouver, Ottawa, Whistler and Saskatoon.

“CHIL has experience with legacy Delta properties, and is on our designer list,” said Karyn Faryna, Interior Design Manager at Marriott International. “Western Canadian design is what they do best — it's their niche, their specialty. They understand the region and the people and come up with inspiration in each location.”

Ultimately, even big name operators like Delta are eschewing standardization in favour of intimacy of location, providing guests with an authentically local experience before they even leave the building. In the age of Airbnb, it can’t just be boutique outfits taking an hyper localized approach to hospitality design. Big operators need to as well. And Delta Calgary is a testament to that. 

The former Delta Bow Valley was built 34 years ago, and was ready for a new look. Delta has been expanding dramatically in international markets since Marriott took over the brand, with 37 hotels in Canada, 31 in the U.S. and 52 in the global pipeline.  Marriott has also announced a new Delta for Jumeirah Beach, Dubai.

Massive changes; not a repositioning

The Calgary Downtown hotel has undergone massive changes, CHIL president Adele Rankin told CLN. “This was not a repositioning, but rather a complete rediscovery of what the hotel needs to be. That includes the guest rooms and ballrooms. We took a deep dive into what the hotel needed and what the brand wanted to develop an energized concept. It was part of Delta's metamorphosis under Marriott's wing.”

Like Calgary’s famous Chinook winds, the new hotel’s aesthetic is rooted in Canada’s ever changing landscape. From the etherial floating 'clouds’ in the lobby to the suspended canoe greeting new arrivals, every design element was carefully thought out to offer an authentic but subtle taste of Canadiana. Meanwhile its restaurant, the Shoe and Canoe, has become a community hub since opening its doors, offering up regional dishes and local craft beers.

“We wanted to show that Calgary is not just the Stampede, hay bales and cowboy hats 365 days a year,” said Rankin. “We wanted to reflect the level of sophistication in Calgary today.

Delta Calgary Downtown reception area.

Delta Calgary Downtown reception area.

“We spent a lot of time on the lobby level,” Rankin added. “The older building had multiple levels. We levelled it out, creating a much more open, inviting and intuitive space. We pared out the back of the house, and put the registration area front and centre. There's a transition zone between the restaurant and the lobby, where people can have a drink or work on their laptops.” These spaces are informal with a more formal business centre and lots of connectivity. There's a built-in banquette with views of the bar.

The bar itself is two storeys high with a topographical map from the time of the Hudson Bay Company. The second floor is quite public and has a great view. There's a large bar, communal tables and bistro tables.

“The concept for the restaurant is a path of discovery showing Calgary's resiliency and part of a deep dive into David Thompson, the HBC cartographer,” said Rankin. It's conceptually driven, with the custom canoe light fixture, the map, and the striped Hudson Bay blanket motif included in the area rugs.

In today's Delta guest rooms, there's a place of function for everything; they don't go overboard with non-essential elements,” said Faryna. “We call it 'The Streamliner,' and formulated elements around that target. There are signature guest room touchpoints such as coat hooks near the entryway, a ledge on top where guests can put their beverages and key cards, and below that, there's a coffeemaker. It's not on the desk or hidden away in a cupboard. In each guest room there's a large, open workspace with integrated power.

“From check-in to guest room, everything is easy and intuitive,” she added. Marriott has dropped the Mode Room featured in earlier Deltas in favour of its Generation 1 prototype. This prototype welcomes customization to suit the design narrative of each hotel.

Why the name change? Faryna explained that when people don't know Calgary, the name Delta Bow Valley didn't mean anything, whereas Delta Calgary Downtown is easily identified.