A downtown Red Deer hotel is converting 109 of its rooms to rental apartments.
Shaz Bharwani, co-owner of Baymont by Wyndham Hotel, said his facility is the second largest in Red Deer.
Given the slowdown in the tourism industry, he told the city’s municipal planning commission there isn’t need for so many rooms, so he would like to turn some of them into rental suites.
This would bring more people to downtown, added Bharwani, who believes the proposal fits with the city’s plans for more residential and commercial developments in the city’s core.
The conversion “is a new concept … it’s never been done in Red Deer,” he said.
City planner Beth McLachlan told commission members this week that the hotel (formerly the Red Deer Lodge) is already in commercial zoning, so it has the “inherent right” to create residential units above the ground floor.
However, a change of use is being sought for a potion of the hotel, which would still retain 125 rooms for visitors. And McLachlan recommended the change be approved.
According to plans submitted to the commission, the hotel tower’s exterior will be enhanced and modernized during the renovation to create 103 bachelor units and six one-bedroom suites in the northeast side of the building.
Bharwani received a variance from the commission on the size of the bachelor suites. While the city bylaw requires them to be 398 square feet, his plans are for 323-square-foot units.
These bachelor suites would rent from between $800 and $850, but this would include utilities, cable, internet and the various amenities, he added.
The rentals would have high-end finishes, such as quartz countertops and sliding barn doors to separate the bathroom.
Bharwani said renters would have free access to fitness and laundry facilities, a game room, as well as meeting spaces.
While the pool is reserved for hotel visitors, perhaps a future arrangement can be made, he added.
McLachlan confirmed there’s adequate parking on site.
But several municipal planning commission members expressed concerns — as did several members of the public who were worried about more noise, traffic and disturbances.
Bharwani responded that on-site security will be necessary, as the hotel’s business also depends on maintaining a peaceful atmosphere in the area.
Coun. Lawrence Lee asked if the lot could be repaved and repainted.
Bharwani replied that repainting can be done, but repaving is more expensive and would have to be considered at a later date.
He was asked why the attractive building modernization stops at the bottom of the tower and doesn’t continue to the first floor of the hotel.
Bharwani cited the financial implications of renovating more of the exterior.
McLachlan said there are no provisions that require parking lot repaving or main-floor exterior improvements be done, since the planned renovation is separate from these aspects of the building.
Once a building permit is granted, it will take up to eight months to complete the renovations, Bharwani said.