Former convent in Charlottetown getting new life as luxury hotel

The owners of a former convent in Charlottetown are spending more than $8 million to turn Notre Dame into a 5-star hotel and luxury apartments.

Owners spend more than $8M to renovate Notre Dame convent

The former Notre Dame convent on Sydney Street in Charlottetown is being turned into a 5-star hotel/apartment complex. (Pat Martel/CBC)

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 hotel and apartments on the south side of the complex offer a panoramic view of Charlottetown Harbour. (Pat Martel/CBC)

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.

Take a look inside the new Notre Dame convent

7 years ago
Duration 1:16
Take a look inside the new Notre Dame convent

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.

A new decorative wrought iron fence now surrounds the new hotel/apartment complex on Sydney Street in Charlottetown. (Pat Martel/CBC)

"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,"

Gordon MacPherson is the project manager in charge of turning the former Notre Dame convent into the new Sydney Boutique Inn and Suites. (Pat Martel/CBC)

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."

The main building will contain 22 apartment suites that will range in size from 800 sq ft up to 1180 sq feet. (Pat Martel/CBC)

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 says all the vinyl windows in the 160-year-old building are being replaced with new wood windows. (Pat Martel/CBC)

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."

This old wooden door will be restored. It will be the fire escape leading to Cumberland Street. (Pat Martel/CBC)

$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.

MacPherson says the development blends in with the neighbourhood, and already people are buying homes. (Pat Martel/CBC)

"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."

Gordon MacPherson says some of the nuns from the former convent often visit and tell him, 'they would like to move back into the property and live here.' (Public Archives of Prince Edward Island)

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. 

This new addition connects the two buildings. The original link the nuns used to get from building to building was demolished. (Pat Martel/CBC)

"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."

Gordon MacPherson says the nuns did an incredible job of preserving this landmark and provided a good foundation for the new building.


Pat Martel has worked with CBC P.E.I. for three decades, mostly with Island Morning where he was a writer-broadcaster and producer. He joined the web team recently to share his passion for great video. Pat also runs an adult coed soccer league in Stratford. He retired in Oct. 2019.