Former convent in Charlottetown getting new life as luxury hotel
Owners spend more than $8M to renovate Notre Dame convent
The nuns who ran a school in Charlottetown for Catholic girls for more than a century would have no trouble recognizing their convent today.
That's because the new owners who bought the historic Sydney Street property in 2014 decided to keep the convent's two original buildings intact.
The main building of the new Sydney Boutique Inn and Suites will house 22 apartments, while the smaller building will become an 18-room five-star boutique hotel. The building is expected to open by the summer of 2017.
The owners of the hotel/apartment project include Jason Aspin, his wife Chun Ying-Li, as well as two other Chinese investors who now live in P.E.I.
Old meets new
Project manager Gordon MacPherson said the original link that connected the two buildings has been torn down. In its place is a new addition that includes a lobby and elevators.
"I think the architect found it rather challenging to put the elevator service in, because it opens on both sides and there's different floor elevations," said MacPherson.
"But it all came together well and will be a great asset to the property,"
MacPherson said many of the heritage features of the building have been saved.
"We've made an effort when we were doing renovations to save all the original woodwork, and because the building is a heritage building, we're replacing all the vinyl windows with new wood windows that really complement the property."
Doing 'justice' to the building
There had been concern in the community about demolishing the old convent, but MacPherson said the investors wanted to retain the old buildings while incorporating modern touches.
"It was their intent from day one to take this property and to do justice to it. They had a vision that they stuck to and stayed really focussed on what you see here today."
Well preserved building to start with
MacPherson said the renovations have gone relatively smoothly — considering he's trying to bring buildings that are more than a century old up to today's standards.
"You always deal with issues of asbestos, structural problems, rot within the building, but the sisters did an incredible job of preserving this landmark and provided us with a good foundation for us to start working with," he said.
MacPherson said the new complex is energy efficient.
"We put in heat pumps that will provide a very energy efficient heat source and air conditioning features to the property and we're putting in all new windows in the property and they're energy star-rated as well."
$8M in renovations
MacPherson said the cost of the renovation project is more than $8 million.
"It's a lot more than what was initially thought. It probably would have been much more cost effective to take the property down to build new, " he said.
"But from day one, they were not interested in that approach, and I think the number of people who would take on a project of this magnitude, make the financial commitment to this property are few and far between."
MacPherson said steps have been taken to blend in with the surrounding older homes.
"Working with heritage and the city of Charlottetown, they were very supportive of the project because they knew it was going to be very beneficial to the property and to the areas as well."
Nuns pleased with the changes
MacPherson said some of the former residents of Notre Dame convent have dropped in to see what has become of their former convent.
"We do have several sisters who do come by every so often and they walk through the property and each one of them feels that they would like to move back into the property and live here."
Whether or not the nuns will be able to afford to move back is still a a question, said MacPherson.
"Certainly with the investment that has gone into this property, we haven't determined the monthly rates or the room rates for the boutique hotel, That will be done as the property moves towards completion."
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