St. Albert’s newest hotel is now open for business.
The Best Western on St. Albert Trail opened quietly last Saturday afternoon, injecting 90 more rooms to a city that badly needs them, according to Joey Mouallem, one of the hotel’s owners.
“We felt that St. Albert was a tremendous market because it was underserviced,” Mouallem said.
The Slave Lake-based Mouallem is the operations component of a three-person ownership group that also owns Best Western locations in Bonnyville and Wainwright. With their St. Albert location, the group is hoping to serve residents of northern Alberta who are visiting the Capital region for business, leisure and medical reasons, something that Mouallem has been doing his whole life.
The hotel includes a fitness room, pool, business centre, a breakfast room, two storage rooms for visiting sports teams and two meeting rooms capable of holding about 40 to 50 people each.
“That was an afterthought because once we got our development permit we just got inundated with calls asking for conference facilities and meeting rooms,” Mouallem said. “So we changed gears and actually changed our drawings to accommodate that.”
Mouallem feels there’s demand in St. Albert for more conference facilities, and he would have liked to offer more, but couldn’t because of the property’s restrictive size.
Mouallem lived at the hotel for the last six weeks of its construction, and was floored by the number of people who stopped by to ask for a look around or express gladness that they were building.
St. Albert now has two hotels and two motels. The St. Albert Inn has 148 rooms, the Sleep Inn Motel has 35 and the Horizon Motel has 31. With just 214 rooms for a population of roughly 60,000, the number of rooms per capita was far lower than other markets where he’s built, Mouallem said.
“It was kind of a no-brainer that we should be putting a hotel in St. Albert. We tried for six years. It has been very, very difficult to find a piece of property that met our needs,” he said.
Mayor Nolan Crouse is impressed with the new hotel and wants to see more of them.
“I’m hopeful that sometime in the not-too-distant future we can get a hotel convention centre,” Crouse said. “We’re in dire need of more hotels.”
Mouallem’s group may consider building another hotel here if their first proves successful, he said.
St. Albert businessman Ash Khan said the hotel is “way overdue” because there aren’t enough rooms to accommodate the people who come for large sports tournaments and other such events.
“The City of St. Albert needed a hotel a long time ago,” said Khan, who is helping organize the 55-Plus Alberta Winter Games that are coming to town in 2011.
St. Albert Chamber of Commerce chair Mike Howes is also glad to see a new business open in the city, especially one that will keep customers in town.
“What we want when we do have these events is for everybody to be staying in St. Albert, not in Edmonton,” Howes said. “That will help our local economy.”
Michael Mazepa of the St. Albert Inn has been preparing for more local competition over the last couple of years by renovating rooms and adding a new wing with a water slide. He feels he’s well-positioned because of the elevated array of services he offers.
“Are they going to take business from me? It’s difficult to say,” he said. “The community has grown. There’s more and more traffic on St. Albert Trail. There’s more people coming from the north.”