ST. JOHN'S, N.L. — Construction started this week on the 148-room Alt hotel on St. John's waterfront that will incorporate elements of the historic Marshall Brothers cellar that stood on the site. The expected completion date is first quarter of 2017.
“St. John's has been on our radar for quite some time — we have been looking at the city for at least five or six years,” Hugo Germain, director of development for Groupe Germain told CLN. “We have national expansion in mind, with our goal of  hotels from coast to coast. We go to areas where we feel there is activity for both business and leisure. St. John's has a good mixture of leisure and corporate, especially with the addition to the Convention Centre which will open soon.”
The site is unmatched, Germain said, nestled between Raymond's Restaurant and the Fortis Building on the northeast corner of Water St. and Prescott St. “We have a direct line of site to The Narrows, and in the summer we will have the best view of the icebergs. We are very excited about the location.”
In each of its projects, Groupe Germain works with architects to provide hotels with local flare. In this case, the architect is Lemay Michaud, which has designed other Alt and Le Germain hotels, plus Hilton properties.
In this case, keeping the historic cellar was not an option as it had been exposed to the elements for many years, but they kept some of the brick and stone materials from the cellar. “We worked hand in hand with the city to keep the spirit of the cellar,” Germain said.
At the entrance to the hotel, there will be a line delineating where the cellar was located, and inside the entrance to the hotel the cellar footprint will continue to be marked by brick detail in the floor. In addition, a feature wall in the hotel lobby will display a montage of tactile materials excavated from the cellar, as well as historical photographs and descriptive text.
“We’re very pleased to welcome Alt Hotel to the downtown core of St. John’s,” stated Dennis O’Keefe, mayor of the city of St. John’s, in a news release. “We’re impressed with Group Germain Hotels’ conscientious efforts to ensure the site’s heritage is celebrated.”
Each Alt hotel has a feature wall: at Toronto airport it consisted of instagram photos gathered through a contest; in Winnipeg a local artist provided a mosaic showing photos of that city; and in Montreal there was a photo contest for local youth.
As in other Alt hotels, the project will feature geothermal heating and cooling; heat recovery from indoor air that is vented outside and from the water used in commercial washers; energy-efficient lighting, and a direct digital control system for ventilation, heating and cooling.
The project also has space for a 2,500-square-foot restaurant and a local coffee shop. “We will have a pretty interesting lobby opening up to the harbour with the best view in the city,” Germain said. The 4,000-square-foot meeting space will also connect to a terrace facing the harbour.
Other Groupe Germain projects include an Alt in Calgary's East Village, that should break ground at the end of March or beginning of April and open in late 2017. “It's right next to the Simmons Building and Charbar restaurant, next to the river, with good access to downtown businesses and business activity. On the weekends, it offers the perfect mix of biking, walking, the zoo and St. Patrick Island.”
Alt Ottawa is accepting reservations for April 1, and Le Germain Ottawa should be completed in late 2017 or early 2018.