Ottawa’s ByWard Market is a cultural hub within the nation’s capital. Art, culture, dining, fashion and nightlife come together to create a vibrant community within one of Canada’s oldest and largest public markets. Given its pulsating atmosphere, it’s no coincidence Hyatt chose the neighbourhood as home to its first Andaz-branded property in Canada.
Billed as global in scale, but local in perspective, the Andaz brand delivers an innovative hospitality experience. Launched in 2007, with Andaz Liverpool Street in London, the concept focuses on lively urban neighbourhoods and leisure destinations. Scott Richer, Hyatt’s VP, Real Estate and Development – Canada, touts the newly opened Andaz Ottawa ByWard Market as the city’s “first luxury boutique-style hotel.” The 200-room property, with its staff of approximately 100, appeals to both business and leisure travellers seeking a vibrant and distinctive hotel experience. “Andaz is an innovative approach to a boutique-inspired hotel experience, whereby the product and service model can be described as sophisticated, yet unscripted,” says Richer.
The Andaz brand aims to create distinctive, contemporary hotels reflective of the local environment, but distinguished by a consistently higher service experience than most boutiques offer. In fact, the name Andaz — a Hindi word meaning ‘personal style’ — was chosen to convey the hotel’s chic design and unique details while highlighting Hyatt’s focus on a new type of guest.
“People who enjoy staying at our hotels are hoping to [go] back [home] knowing more than when they left,” explains Matt Graham, GM, Andaz Ottawa. “They want to experience things they haven’t experienced before; to get to know the community better than they might in a cookie-cutter-style hotel; and have a more meaningful experience.”
The brand’s boutique-inspired properties are individual by design, opting to reflect the character of the surrounding neighbourhood through all facets of the hotel’s offerings — right down to toiletries and the complementary mini-bar snacks, which Graham sources from local suppliers such as Hummingbird Chocolate Maker (recent winner of the Best Chocolate in the World title by London’s Academy of Chocolate for its dark chocolate bar) and Purple Urchin, an amenities supplier that developed a custom line of products for the hotel. “[We] focus on letting guests experience Ottawa as if they’re visiting a friend, rather than staying at a hotel,” says Graham, who came to the Ottawa property from the Andaz Scottsdale Resort & Spa in Arizona.
“The brand is designed to break down what we call barriers between the hotel and the guest,” adds Richer, whose previous hotel experience includes Delta Hotels & Resorts and Choice Hotels International. “It’s more of a peer-to-peer service model.” For example, the Andaz check-in experience does not happen at the front desk; instead guests are invited to make themselves at home in the hotel’s living room-like lobby, where they are treated to a welcome beverage. Check-in is performed with a host — who plays the role of concierge, bellman and lobby host — via iPad mini.
Andaz highights local culture through creative events, including the Andaz Salon series. “[These are] usually artistic in focus,” says Richer. “We will have local artists hold workshops and guests and locals are invited to participate. These events, [which include everything from book launches to photo exhibitions, live music and art installations], bring the community into the hotel and the hotel into the community.”
A SENSE OF PLACE
The property marks Hyatt’s first entry into the Ottawa market. “When looking for a location to put in an Andaz, we were looking for a couple of things. First, it needed to be a vibrant, lively, fun community — our brand is about celebrating where we are, so where we are has to offer those things,” explains Graham. “Second, we want to be in places our guests are already going.”
Ottawa, and the ByWard Market in particular, fit the bill on both counts, but choosing Ottawa for Andaz’s Canadian debut came down to timing and opportunity. “When we looked at the Canadian marketplace, Ottawa checked all the boxes for a brand like Andaz,” explains Richer.
“The ByWard Market is the centre of culture, history and tourism in Ottawa,” agrees Neil Malhotra, VP of Claridge Homes, the privately owned, Ottawa-based real-estate development company, which developed and owns the hotel. “It was a natural fit with the Andaz brand to showcase the best of Ottawa. This brand is all about immersing guests in the very best of local culture and this location and hotel will do just that.”
Located on the corner of Dalhousie St. and York St., the site was previously occupied by the Union Du Canada building. “This was a very high-profile development opportunity in Ottawa,” says Richer. “[Claridge Homes] came to acquire the building and originally looked at doing an adaptive reuse.”
The original plan called for additional floors to be constructed on the top of the building, however, it was ultimately scrapped so the building would fit better within the local community, explains Malhotra. “[We worked] with the community on the overall height of the project; by rebuilding, it allowed us to reduce the floor-to-ceiling heights and lower the overall height [of the building].”
Work on the project first began in the summer of 2013, with the demolition of the Union Du Canada building, though construction of the hotel took only 18 months. The resulting structure features 13 guest floors — boasting four two-bay Hyatt suites, two three-bay Junior suites, and a four-bay Executive Suite with a fireplace and large 560-sq.-ft. terrace — a street-level restaurant, rooftop lounge, as well as a floor of meeting and event spaces comprised of six studio-style rooms totalling 4,500 sq. ft. Andaz Ottawa is also pet-friendly — its Pet Program offers dog-friendly amenities such as a bed, bowls and dog cookies.
The hotel’s design is a celebration of Ottawa’s identity as the nation’s capital. Toronto-based Mason Studio helmed the interior design, which features nods to iconic Canadian materials such as Jasper stone, as well as art sourced from across the country.
The guestrooms are modern and functional, featuring light wood, copper accents, platform beds and custom carpet with a pattern unique to each guestroom. One wall of each unit also features what Graham describes as a deconstructed armoire. “It’s all of the pieces you would see in a hotel armoire, but they’re pulled apart and spread across a wooden plinth on the wall,” he explains.
Each of the hotel’s floors pay homage to a Canadian province or territory, featuring a large map installation highlighting the theme province/territory as well as art sourced from the area. “The artwork displayed [throughout the hotel] is sourced through this great organization called the Art Bank of Canada,” says Graham. This, he notes, was particularly useful for sourcing work from more remote areas, such as the territories.
The main floor restaurant, Feast + Revel, is designed as a celebration of the geography of Canada, incorporating stone and wood elements — including a trellis inspired by aerial views of farmland. Operated by Hyatt and helmed by executive chef Stephen La Salle, it offers a menu of locally sourced food in simple preparations. “The saucing and flavour is a mix of English preparation styles and French influences, which is fun for us since we’re where the English and French parts of the country meet,” says Graham.
From a design perspective, Copper, the hotel’s rooftop lounge, lets the views speak for themselves. “They are absolutely stunning, but none more spectacular than the views from the rooftop bar and lounge,” boasts Malhotra. “[It has] a historic, unobstructed view of the Parliament Buildings, Gatineau Hills and the Ottawa River.”
Even before opening, Andaz Ottawa received significant interest. At the beginning of August, Graham indicated the hotel, which advertises rooms from $240 to $340 per night, had already received several hundred bookings through the end of the year, as well as some group business for 2017.
Upon opening in late August, Andaz Ottawa became the brand’s 13th location. However, Richer notes the brand has a “pretty robust pipeline,” with 21 locations set to open by the end of 2017. Though none of the planned locations will be in Canada, Richer says to expect future Canadian locations. “In terms of markets that make sense, there are maybe four or five markets in Canada that would fit the bill,” he says. “We are in various stages of activity in pursuing growth in those markets.”
Volume 28, Number 6