TORONTO — Unite Here Local 75 — the largest representative of hotel workers in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) — is set to challenge a redevelopment project proposed by Great Eagles Hotels (Canada) Ltd. that the union claims will result in the loss of nearly 1,200 hotel rooms in Toronto’s downtown core.

The union recently obtain party status from the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT) in relation to an application by Great Eagles Hotels (Canada) Ltd., which plans to redevelop the Chelsea Hotel located at Yonge Street and Gerrard Street West in Toronto.

Great Eagle filed an application to permit a mixed-use redevelopment consisting of residential condominium units in 2015. Currently Canada’s largest hotel, boasting 1,590 rooms, the proposed redevelopment — for which Great Eagle and the City of Toronto reached a settlement in May — will be required to feature a minimum of only 400 hotel rooms.

Arguing that the room loss as a result of this redevelopment will hurt tourism, Unite Here Local 75 is planning to challenge the settlement at the LPAT hearing on October 1.

“Our research verifies that the potential loss of nearly 1,200 rooms in the downtown core will have a detrimental impact on Toronto’s ability to host visitors, particularly in the highly competitive and economically lucrative meeting and convention industry,” noted Nuredin Bulle, of Unite Here Local 75.

Unite Here Local 75 enlisted help from a market-research firm urbanMetrics Inc. to conduct an independent analysis to uncover travel-industry market trends, the economic impact of visitor-related spending, hotel market data and hotel-related employment in the region. The study discovered that overnight visitors spend significantly more than same-day visitors; convention and business visitors spend 1.5 times the average spending per visitor than any other type of visitor; and total visitor spending in the region stimulated $6.1 billion in total economic output in 2016, which supported more than 77,880 full-time years of employment and generated total labour income of $3.7 billion annually.

“The Chelsea Hotel is an immediate opportunity for decision-makers to demonstrate their commitment to sustaining Toronto as a premier tourist and convention destination,” says Bulle. “The urbanMetrics analysis should serve as a wakeup call for city officials and everyone involved in Toronto’s tourism-and-hospitality sector, particularly if Toronto is to stay competitive with other major cities in Canada and across North America.”

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