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Town of Berwick studying potential development of branded, midscale hotel

Project foreman Al Rhuland and John Nichols, chairman of the Kings Mutual Century Centre building committee, show off the developing additions to the multi-million dollar complex that will now house the Larsen Curling Centre, Willowdale Farm Fitness Centre and Eden Valley Wellness Centre.
The Town of Berwick is looking into the possibility of a hotel development. Mayor Don Clarke said that with recent developments such as the second phase of the Kings Mutual Century Centre, people are wondering if there is a business case for a hotel. - File Photo

Consultant exploring financing, securing brand, operating firm

BERWICK, NS - If it comes to fruition, it’s a project that could make a huge economic impact on the Berwick area.

At the town’s annual Christmas reception at the Kings Mutual Century Centre (KMCC) on Nov. 29, efforts to bring a hotel development to the area were outlined.

Berwick town council commissioned CBRE Hotels to conduct a study in September 2017. In its final report presented in April, CBRE recommended that a “branded, midscale, limited service hotel would be most appropriate for development in Berwick.”

Several national brands were approached with the idea and there was indication that some would be interested in exploring the opportunity. In September, council engaged a consultant with considerable experience developing hotels in Atlantic Canada, Clark Squires and Associates. Squires was tasked with exploring investor interest, financing, a hotel brand and potential locations.

Squires said a hotel for Berwick could soon be a reality. Over the past two months, he and his associates have “been moving forward on financing, securing a brand and an operating firm.”

Town of Berwick chief administrative officer Michael Payne said there has been a lot of talk in recent years about the possibility of a hotel development and council wanted to investigate the feasibility of such a proposal.

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About two months ago, the town contracted Squires for a six-month period. Payne said they are hopeful that there could soon be a proposal before council. The town doesn’t have a preferred location in mind but the study identified the close proximity of Berwick to Highway 101 as a positive.

“I assume that anywhere on the northern end of town would be preferred, as far as what the study proposed were concerned,” Payne said.

He said the investigation, at least to this point, has been positive. A hotel has the potential to serve as an economic development driver for the town, especially considering that there is limited hotel space in western Kings County.

Having a hotel in the Berwick area would complement the KMCC and other amenities nicely. It would make Berwick more attractive as a destination for events held over multiple days – and the town isn’t that far away from 14 Wing Greenwood.

Payne said that since the town has invested in a study and a consultant and there is interest in identifying potential local investors, a public announcement about the project was made at the Christmas reception.

Mayor Don Clarke said the town has seen considerable growth over the past few years and a hotel development would be “a great addition to the town and area.”
He said discussions of the possibility of a hotel go back at least to the time that the KMCC was built and it has been mentioned as part of various economic development initiatives.

Recent developments such as the second phase of the KMCC and the inclusion of a curling facility have led people to speculate if there isn’t a business case for a hotel in the Berwick area.

“The lack of a hotel space is a problem,” Clarke said.

He said the study had positive results and it looks like a hotel would be a viable possibility. The town met with potential investors but Clarke said it quickly became evident that they had to engage someone with expertise to see if the idea could be taken to the next level.

He said Squires has made significant headway over the past couple of months and they are hopeful that the announcement of the project could spur some interest among potential local investors.

As the investigation progresses, Clarke said there would be a need to engage the public in discussions surrounding details such as location.

Kirk.starratt@kingscountynews.ca

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