$35M Marriott Courtyard confirmed for downtown site

Construction on a long-awaited hotel on the edge of the city's downtown will resume in earnest, a throng of about 100 people who attended an unveiling of what's now planned for the site next to the Prince George Public Library were told Friday.

Standing on front of a concrete foundation that has been in place since early 2014, Rod McLeod, principal of River City Hotel Inc. and River City Ventures Inc., which own the property, said a 174-room Marriott Courtyard will be completed in 12-14 months at a cost of $35 million.

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The project will create 200,000 person hours of work during construction and employ 40 people once completed. Two local companies - Equity Plumbing and Heating and Lakewood Electric - are among the major subcontractors.

To rise six storeys adding up to 151,380 square feet, it will feature 7,000 feet of convention space, a pool, exercise room and 92 underground parking stalls. The version will be a "generation six," the largest and most up-to-date of the Courtyard models in the Marriott chain and be of woodframe construction, McLeod emphasized.

"We are, after all, the white spruce capital of Canada," McLeod said.

The project marks a step back from what was originally planned for the site.

In April 2012, McLeod said a 12-storey full-service hotel to contain 150 rooms plus 35 luxury condominiums over 188,000 square feet was to be built for $40 million and completed by late 2013.

By October 2013, the goal had shifted to a $35-million four-star hotel, holding 170 guest rooms and nine extended-stay suites under the Delta brand. It would be six storeys, rather than 12, but to go wider instead of taller and with a full-service restaurant and lounge as well as a fitness centre with a spa and indoor pool.

The aim was to have it open for the Canada Winter Games in February 2015 but by early 2014, the project was on hold with only the foundation to show for it.

In January 2015, Maryland-based Marriott International Inc. signed an agreement to buy Delta's Canadian properties. The deal was completed in April following a regulatory review.

PEG Development and Blue Diamond Capital, both based in Utah, were subsequently brought in as partners on the project.

"I started this project with perseverance 101 but now I think I've earned my PhD," McLeod said. "We now have a development permit, a building permit and we are full steam ahead."

Mayor Lyn Hall was also in an upbeat mood. In the 18 months he's held the position, Hall said the "most-asked question," he's fielded has been "when is the hotel going to be built."

"My answer has continually been 'very soon,'" Hall said noted that during his first week as mayor, McLeod met with him to provide an update on the project's progress.

"Throughout the entire last 18 months, he really was committed to making this project a reality," Hall said.

He described the project as a cornerstone of city council's effort to revitalized the downtown.

Ryan McRae, Marriott International Inc.'s area vice president of lodging development said the chain's hotels are "50-year assets and become a very important part of the community."

Signs that work at the site was about to resume became apparent over the couple of weeks or so when an trailer office and heavy equipment were moved onto the site and workers could be seen working on the foundation.

At the end of the event, the construction crane, which has consistently remained in place since the project first began, was used to lift a massive sign depicting what's now planned for the site, while the Theme from Rocky was played over the sound system.

In the past, McLeod has said an accompanying condominium complex is also planned for the site but he made no mention of the possibility during his speech Friday.

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