Search for College Quarter hotel set to begin

Visiting scholars, out-of-town researchers, sports teams and even parents of students in residence who want to attend convocation may soon have a place to stay that is only steps from the U of S main campus.

By Colleen MacPherson

The university is proceeding with plans to find a hotel company interested in building across College Drive from the main campus in College Quarter. Judy Yungwirth, director of corporate administration, said a hotel is one component of a larger development of services in the College Quarter that could eventually include retail, residential and commercial space as well as a new ice rink.

The addition of a hotel, retail and rink to College Quarter has been on the books for some time but has been on hold waiting zoning approval from the city. The university began the zoning application process for College Quarter with the city in 2010, Yungwirth explained. Approval was finally received Dec. 10 but the delay is understandable. "The city really wanted to get it right because this is a significant infill. Now this paves the way for us to enter into long-term leases and arrange with third parties for development on the site."

A request for proposals (RFP) for a hotel will go out in January. The site has been identified – east of the parkade on College Drive where beach volleyball courts and seed barn are currently located – but the size of the hotel has yet to be determined. "We have discussed the possibility of about 120 rooms," said Yungwirth, "but it will be based on whatever is financially feasible for whoever builds the hotel."

She added the RFP will indicate it would be in the university's interest for the hotel to include meeting spaces as well as long-stay rooms "but we're not making it a requirement." She added the university "is not interested in running a hotel," but rather looking at a long-term lease arrangement for the land. The value of the lease will be determined by market research and the current lease arrangements the university has at Preston Crossing.

In terms of the quality of the hotel, Yungwirth said the expectation is it will "complement the university," and it must meet the architectural standards already set out for College Quarter. Selection of a winning proposal is expected to be made by spring.

Unlike the Preston Crossing development where lease proceeds are directed to student scholarships, lease revenue from the hotel will be directed to further development of College Quarter, she said, "where the whole idea is to enhance the student experience."