By Colleen Isherwood, Editor
CANMORE, Alta. — Think Intrawest meets Zita Cobb of Fogo Island. A planned mountain community with hotels at its centre like Blue Mountain, Whistler or Tremblant, with the touch of a local entrepreneur like Cobb on Fogo Island. Meet Frank Kernick's Spring Creek Development in Canmore, Alta.
The Spring Creek Development has a special place in my mind. Three or four years ago, Steve and I were in Calgary and Canmore doing stories about Clique Hotel Group properties, including Applause, which had just opened, and the Falcon Crest, which had won numerous awards that year. In Canmore, Jim Muir of Clique showed us the site of a hotel that would be coming soon to the area. At the time it was a sign, a fence and a lot of dirt. Then Steve and I had lunch on the patio of the Iron Goat Pub & Grill with Muir and Frank Kernick, local entrepreneur and developer, who regaled us with stories about the complex that was starting to become Spring Creek, and the hotels that would anchor the complex.
Now a bit of background here. I have been regaled by the plans of visionaries many times. Sometimes I have even put those stories as the lead in the magazine or newsletter — only to find that, years later, those ideas are still a dream.
The first hotel Frank talked about has come to pass. It's called The Malcolm, and there's a huge sign on the Trans-Canada Highway on the way from Calgary to Canmore stating, “The Malcolm Hotel, The Crown Jewel of Canmore.” Bold words as travellers are entering the national park system that includes The Fairmont Banff Springs, The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, The Post hotel and others that could all claim to be jewels as well.
But the Malcolm is impressive. At 124 rooms, it has grand public spaces usually found in much larger hotels. The place is named after King Malcolm of Scotland, and his oversized portrait hangs in the lobby. There's a fireplace, surrounded by sofas, that stretches two storeys high.
The public washrooms should be entered into the Cintas Best Washroom competition; the women's consists of a grand square room with marble floors and a giant chandelier, with the stall doors made of solid wood, and looking more like the entrance to a suite than to a toilet.
The chef, Graham Smith, hails from one of those other Rockies gems, the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. The Malcolm has a formal dining room, Stirling, that overlooks Mount Lady McDonald, with food that includes a fresh fish called Tusk flown in from Iceland.
The guest rooms are generous in size, and most have a mountain view and a balcony with two chairs and a table, where guests can stare at the Three Sisters mountains (Faith, Hope and Charity). The same view is available from the heated pool and two hot tubs.
Okay, so The Malcolm is worthy of the jewel moniker. But what really impressed us was the way the hotel is integrated into the community. For Spring Creek is a community, built on the Kernick family's 70 acres, which were at various times a dairy farm, worker housing as the Trans-Canada was built, and later an RV park.
Frank is insistent when he says that Spring Creek is not a stand-alone community, although it does have its own retail, retirement home, live-work units, rental condos and condominium homes, restaurants and when ultimately built out, three hotels. They also have an Opera House, a replica of one that stood for many years in Canmore. Lots of local events take place there — no opera, though.
Frank talks about Spring Creek as “The heart of Canmore”. If you look at a map, that's where it is located, right in the middle, a short walk from both the shops on Main Street and hotel row which includes properties like the Falcon Crest, Stoneridge Mountain Resort and Blackstone Mountain Lodge. Like The Malcolm, these properties are all managed by Clique Hotels.
The idea behind the retirement home is that people with condos can come on the weekends and spent quality time with their aging parents. Origins, the retirement home, features a pub that's got live music and is a popular spot with locals. The other popular spot is the lounge part of Stirling at the Malcolm, which does a thriving business, especially on the weekends.
At one point, the property had 200 mobile homes, 300 campsites and five cabins. As Spring Creek is built out, the mobile homes are being phased out. The RV owners have been given plenty of notice about this, and there are special deals for them, Theresa Mullen, marketing manager at Spring Creek Real Estate, told us on a tour of the development. “The trailer park owners get first option on each new development that comes out, and sometimes Frank will buy the trailers too.”
Ultimate build out of the 70-acre Spring Creek property will be 1,000 residences and town homes including 300 that can be rented out, and more than 200 hotel rooms in three hotels. The other two hotels will be built in about three years, said Kernick. This is significant in the Canmore market, which currently has 2,842 rooms, according to Andrew Shepherd, general manager at The Malcolm.
The first will be a 50-room adult only spa hotel backing onto Spring Creek. It will be tied to The Malcolm by an underground tunnel.
The second will be a more family-friendly boutique hotel, joined to The Malcolm by a plus-15 bridge (15 feet above street level). This hotel will have 40-50 rooms.
Both hotels will be managed by Clique and tied to the Malcolm for their amenities and foodservice.
Canmore, a town of 15,000 people, is located just outside the Banff park gate, an hour and fifteen minutes from Calgary. It has the same breathtaking mountain views as Banff.