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Drawbridge goes upscale, Holiday Inn Express aims at mid - market

Tue, 04/03/2018 - 16:47 -- Chris Cooke
hotel interior

It was built in 1963 by the late Regner Blok-Andersen.

Prime Ministers Pierre Trudeau and Brian Mulroney stayed there. And now after 55 years the Drawbridge Inn in downtown Sarnia is getting a name change and at least a $10 million renovation.

Two Oakville businessmen well known to Sarnians for their aggressive plans and overflowing personalities purchased the aging property and are turning the Drawbridge into a boutique hotel called the Insignia.

You may remember George Laschinger and Malvinder Singh for their elaborate proposal to rebuild the Bayside Centre that ended in legal confrontations with a third party. Since then Bayside was sold to Seasons Retirement Communities leaving the two businessmen to concentrate on the Drawbridge.

General Manager Kelly Steeves says more than $8 million has been spent so far transforming the 84 room hotel into an upscale four-star facility operating under the Choice brand.

“The City has been wonderful to work with,” says Steeves noting unique architecture is being used to create a unique experience. “There will be a sense of brand familiarity with a boutique feel”.

The Insignia will have custom millwork with furnishing by Restoration Hardware. Steeves says the technology will be “future proof” with live streaming in every room and “incredibly fast” Wi-Fi.

According to Steeves the rooms will be “European Minimalist” without drapes, hardwood floors, granite and special linens. There will be individual plug and play work stations with 10 outlets designed for the business traveller.

Of the 84 rooms 16 will be suites. All will have card access with smartphone technology and eco friendly lighting.

There will be a sauna, a steam bath and a pool. However, Steeves says the water slide will be removed.

The room price starting at $175.00 is substantially higher than most in Sarnia. But Steeves doesn’t view that as a problem saying travel is up three per cent and believes travellers will pay for high end amenities.

While the owners would like to open sooner rather than later Steeves says the Insignia will not be held hostage to construction. She suggests construction will continue for another three or four months and when it comes, the “grand opening will be a grand opening”.

For Laschinger and Singh the Drawbridge is one of several projects. They are involved with a high end condominium called the Insignia in Oakville and are in the throes of acquiring Stratford’s Festival Inn.

Meanwhile, there is more to come locally.

Vrancor Group will soon open its third hotel on Venetian Boulevard in Point Edward. The Hamilton – based property management, development and hospitality management company is proceeding with a $20 million Holiday Inn Express and Suites to be sandwiched between its Best Western Guildwood Inn and newly opened Hampton Inn. The Hampton opened in January last year.

While occupancy in Sarnia and area is low at 56 per cent and an average room rate of $107.00 Vrancor remains optimistic due the NOVA Chemicals expansion and predicted construction boom over the next two years.

The company reports occupancy at 75 per cent at the Hampton with an average room rate of $134.00. Corporate and business travel make up the base of business with sports teams and leisure on weekends.

The Holiday Inn Express and Suites will have 110 rooms and is expected to open early next year.

Meanwhile the Insignia’s Steeves believes there is “plenty of market for everyone”.

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