Hilton the latest entry in Fort St. John hotel market

An artist's rendering of the Hilton Home2 hotel under construction in Fort St. John.

Hoteliers continue to fly in to Fort St. John as a slate of industrial projects for the region falls into place.

Kelowna-based Argus Hospitality is the latest to enter the local market, confirming it is building a new 90-room extended stay hotel on 111 Street just off the Alaska Highway.

The $18-million development will open under the Hilton Home2 Suites brand, and crews have already put shovels into the ground.

“It’s always been about not if, but when,” said Thom Killingsworth, regional vice-president and general manager for Argus.

“We have confidence in what’s happening in the north, with what we’re experiencing now.”

The hotel is the second new hotel currently under construction in Fort St. John. Work has already begun on a 123-room Best Western Plus hotel at 86 Street and 85 Avenue. Meanwhile, the new Microtel Inn & Suites property along the Alaska Highway opened in June.

Indeed, the dominoes have lined up and begun to fall for the Pacific NorthWest LNG project, which has received environmental approval from the province, along with a development agreement expected to be codified into law by the government this summer.

While Pacific NorthWest still needs the green light from the federal government, the National Energy Board has already recommended the approval of the North Montney Mainline Project, which will feed northeastern gas reserves into the Prince Rupert Gas Transmission Line and flow to the Pacific NorthWest’s LNG terminal planned near Prince Rupert.

Work is also slated to begin on the $8.8-billion Site C dam outside of Fort St. John this summer.

If everything moves ahead as planned, it will be enough work to keep crews, government, and industry executives busy in the region for some time — this when other oil and gas markets are seeing up to a 20 per cent reduction in their businesses because of sluggish oil prices, Killingsworth says.

“Some might say why are you building a hotel in an environment where the business is down, but, we all know its cyclical,” Killingsworth said.

“There lots more in Fort St. John than just oil. There’s gas and other projects happening up there. It’s a very strong market.”

Argus is looking at a 12 to 18-month window to build, with an opening slated for September 2016, according to Killingsworth.

The four-storey extended-stay property will feature apartment-style suites with full-size kitchens, with prices in the middle of the market at nightly rates expected in the $149 to $189 range.

The hotel will have a pool and hot tub along with a community and patio space, Killingsworth said.

Argus is also developing a restaurant pad next to the hotel for a lunch and dinner establishment, but Killingsworth says a tenant has yet to be confirmed.

“We’re looking at what’s been successful in Fort McMurray that’s not in Fort St. John,” he said.

Killingsworth said the company will hold a formal groundbreaking ceremony in the near future.

Killingsworth says the build will provide 85 full time jobs during the construction phase and 25 new full time jobs after opening.

Argus has built and currently operates a Four Points by Sheraton in Kelowna, with plans for another hotel in that city.