New boutique hotel reflects Calgary’s transformation as tech and culture hub

The idea for the Dorian came about when its developer realized the need for a boutique luxury hotel that could tell the story of Calgary’s evolution as a world-class city.Handout

With its playful, flamboyant and sometimes provocative homage to Irish playwright Oscar Wilde, Calgary’s newest luxury hotel is a standout on the often-generic hotel chain landscape.

The first hotel to be built in the city’s downtown in more than a decade, the $110-million Marriott property is named after the protagonist in Wilde’s novel The Picture of Dorian Gray. The Dorian features more than 300 luxury rooms and three restaurants in a 27-storey tower.

Filled with thoughtfully commissioned local artworks that evoke both Victorian England and Calgary’s Western roots, the hotel has been a welcome boon for the city’s hard-hit hospitality and tourism sector.

Along with other commercial developments, the Dorian is playing an integral role in the transformation of Calgary into one of Canada’s top inclusive cultural hubs, as well as one of the world’s most livable cities, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit, which ranked it third this year.

With the Dorian, we are building the conditions for the results we all want – a renewed level of growth and prosperity in Calgary, especially for the downtown area.

Patricia Phillips, chief executive officer, PBA Group of Companies

The idea for the Dorian came about when its developer – Patricia Phillips, the Calgary-born chief executive officer of PBA Group of Companies – realized the need for a boutique luxury hotel that could tell the story of Calgary’s evolution as a world-class city.

Previously recognized for its oil industry and “cowboy sensibility,” Calgary has grown over the past decade into a city with “a rich art and music scene, a sought-after culinary landscape and expanding industries that are attracting younger people,” Ms. Phillips says.

According to the latest figures from Calgary Economic Development, Calgary is Canada’s third most diverse city, home to 1.3 million people who speak 120 languages ​​and representing the second-youngest median age in the country.

And with more than 500 core digital tech companies, Calgary has had the fastest pace of tech workforce growth compared to anywhere in the US, at 2.2 percent over the past 12 months, according to LinkedIn’s Workforce Report for Canada.

The Dorian Hotel features classic, ageless decor.Handout

“Oscar Wilde once said, ‘Success is a science; if you have the conditions, you get the result,’” Ms. Phillips says. “With the Dorian, we are building the conditions for the results we all want – a renewed level of growth and prosperity in Calgary, especially for the downtown area.”

On the other side of downtown is the $500-million expansion of Calgary’s BMO Centre, which, upon completion in 2024, will become the largest convention center in Western Canada and the heart of the city’s newest culture and entertainment district.

“This building is a game-changer for Calgary,” says Kate Thompson, president of the Calgary Municipal Land Corporation (CMLC), which is overseeing the development project. It is being designed by Populous, a global architect company that specializes in arenas and convention centers.

“They’re really paying attention to cutting-edge place-making,” Ms. Thompson says, “focusing on building unique spaces where people can gather and pushing beyond just the annual 10-day Stampede festival that takes place on-site.”

Intended to be a year-round destination, the district will feature large plaza areas, retail outlets, restaurants and other amenities, with an anticipated annual economic effect of $250-million to $300-million.

In the next six months, CMLC will be announcing more details about a 250-room hotel to be built on-site, which will help house the overflow of convention attendees and visitors to the city.

“There’s never been a hotel in that area before. We’re excited about it because it’s a growth opportunity for other hotels to come on board – projects usually beget other projects,” Ms. Thompson says.

The lobby of the Dorian Hotel, which is playing an integral role in the transformation of Calgary into one of Canada’s top cultural hubs.Handout

Many such projects are making sustainability a priority, such as the conversion of 65,000 square feet of unused commercial real estate at the bottom of the iconic Calgary Tower into an urban indoor farm. Local company Agriplay Ventures Inc. is installing vertical growing towers for more than 150 crops, ranging from watermelon to cucumbers.

A few steps away is the 60-storey, mixed-use Telus Sky skyscraper, which opened its doors earlier this year. It not only features Canada’s largest public art display on its façade but is also considered one of the most technologically innovative and environmentally friendly buildings in North America, having recently been nominated for the European-based International High Rise Awards.

Notable features include a rainwater recycling system that reduces the building’s municipal water demand by 70 percent, a thermal energy system that cuts energy demand by 30 percent and a living green wall in an 11-storey atrium.

The new Energy Transition Center, located in the recently refurbished Ampersand building downtown, is slated to open this fall. The hub for decarbonization efforts is intended to spark innovation within the energy industry, accelerating the transition to cleaner energy alternatives while also enhancing workplace skill sets within the oil and gas sector.

Mrs. Thompson recognizes the city’s boundless potential.

“All this tangible investment in the future of Calgary is giving optimism to developers who may not have touched down for the past few years but are now looking deeper and seeing the city’s transformation,” she says. “You can feel the shift in the city; it is palpable.”

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