By Colleen Isherwood, Editor
VANCOUVER — JW Marriott Parq Vancouver and the DOUGLAS Vancouver celebrated their one-year anniversary on Sept. 24. The development has unveiled a whole new convention area in Vancouver, and convention-goers are catching on.
Two years ago, during the Western Canadian Lodging Conference, I attended a Marriott reception unveiling plans for the new hotels. Along with many others in the hospitality industry, I gazed out at the view of False Creek from Concord Place, trying to figure why, where and how the company would build the two properties.
A year ago, the properties opened, and I interviewed hotel general manager Marion Harper Treskin. She explained that the Parq Vancouver complex is more than 800,000 sq. ft. and looks like a whale, with the two towers of the JW and the DOUGLAS anchoring one corner, and the convention floor on level four wrapping the entire complex. The casino is on levels two and three in between the towers. Then, there's a 30,000 sq. ft. park, complete with 200 full-grown trees, occupying the sixth floor space between the towers. The JW has 281 rooms plus 48 suites, while the DOUGLAS has 178 plus 10 suites — for a total of 517.
It was only this year, that I actually got to tour and stay at the JW Marriott Parq Vancouver, B.C.'s largest new-build project, which cost $640 million. The project started a decade ago, when owner Scott Menke of Paragon Gaming first took his vision to city hall.
One of the things that impressed me most was the new views of the city. Most of the city's convention hotels are centred around the cruise port, and offer views of Burrard Inlet, the seaplanes, North and West Vancouver and the mountains. The two new hotels provide views for guests where there were none before: across False Creek to the dome of Science World, the burgeoning city of Burnaby, and in the distance Mount Robson (on a very clear day); or the top of BC Place, which looks like a giant mattress.
“When you enter the lobby, you can go to the spa, the casino, meeting rooms, The Victor restaurant. But you never have to see the casino if you don't want to,” said Amy Ballard, director of sales and marketing for both the JW Marriott Parq Vancouver and the DOUGLAS.
“Many groups have Vancouver on their bucket list, but there are no luxury hotels with enough meeting space.” There's the convention centre and hotels all around it, but some people would prefer to be away from the crowds associated with the cruise terminal.
“We're getting groups and projects that never considered meeting in Vancouver,” added Ballard. “International programs can have top-tier meetings. With 517 rooms combined, we can accommodate groups of up to 450 people in a luxury hotel suitable for galas.” Eighty per cent of the groups are about 200 people, she said.
In terms of meeting space, the complex has 13 ballrooms/ boardrooms/ meeting rooms and 60,000-plus sq. ft. total event space, all on one level joined to both hotels.
The designers of the JW, Alessandro Munge of Studio Munge, were the same ones who designed the Rosewood Hotel Georgia, which sold last year for the highest price per-key of any hotel in Canada — $929,500 per key. The hotel is also one of the greenest hotels in Vancouver, with LEED Gold certification, Ballard said.
“There has never been a hotel in this area, and it's great to introduce people,” said Ballard. The area is being redeveloped as the arts and entertainment district of Vancouver, including the Queen Elizabeth theatre.
The JW Marriott Vancouver Parq and the DOUGLAS are part of Marriott’s Convention & Resort Network, a premier collection of the company’s largest meeting and convention hotels and resorts. It was created over 25 years ago to build a greater consistency within Marriott’s convention services and to support meeting planners in executing larger meetings/events seamlessly. The CRN includes more than 100 hotels across the United States, Canada, the Bahamas, the Caribbean and Mexico. There are seven hotels in Canada, four of them in Vancouver.
Asked how the CRN works among Vancouver hotels, Christine Brittain, who is senior sales manager at the Sheraton Vancouver Wall Centre Hotel, explained: “Our goal is to get meeting planners to pick Vancouver first; then a Marriott hotel; then one of the three of us [Parq, Bayshore or Wall Centre].”
The Vegas dining connection
Owner Scott Menke hails from Las Vegas, but there's another Las Vegas connection to the JW Marriott and the DOUGLAS. Husband and wife team chefs Elizabeth Blau and Kim Canteenwalla, of Blau & Associates, known for creating restaurants for Steve Wynn in Las Vegas, designed all eight restaurants and lounges, from The Victor, a high-end steak, seafood and sushi eatery, to Honey Salt, which also has an outlet in Las Vegas. D/6 Bar and Lounge serves lunch, dinner and appetizers. 1886, the high end Asian restaurant, gets its name from the year Chinatown was established in Vancouver. The other restaurants are: Centre Bar, MRKT East, BC Kitchen and Centre Bar.
Blau's husband and business partner, Kim Canteenwalla, runs the day-to-day food-and-beverage operations at Parq. Canteenwalla is a Canadian-born chef who has cooked at prominent resorts in Vegas, Toronto and Asia.
The 60,000 square feet of meeting space at the JW Marriott and the DOUGLAS include Vancouver's largest hotel ballroom, which was recently voted Vancouver's Best Ballroom in the HOSPY Design Awards. One of the innovations is meeting pods, suitable for informal get-togethers during events and conferences. There's also a hidden lounge, disguised by a bookcase.
The smaller of the two hotels is named for David Douglas, a Scottish botanist, and his namesake Douglas fir tree. The hotel theme is built around nature in the city; thus it's fitting that guests are greeted by a living wall on the first floor. The check-in is on the third floor, where guests are greeted by a replica of a Douglas fir tree on its side, encased in glass and including the cut-marks the loggers make. The tree represents the outdoors, and the glass indicates the modernism of the city of Vancouver.
Every suite at the DOUGLAS is totally different, with some including lofts that open into the outdoor space. Floors in the rooms are concrete. As renowned Canadian architect Arthur Erickson once said, “for this generation, concrete is the new marble.”