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September 02, 2004

Intergulf Cidex

has big plans for old Westgate Hotel site

Debbie Elicksen

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Having lived on the west side of town for several years, Abed Itani, president of Intergulf Cidex, saw the value in the property surrounding the Westgate Hotel immediately.

“I drive by that site almost every day and I’ve always liked that location. Then an opportunity came to us through a third party and I was asked if I was interested in doing some kind of partnership. We looked at the site and had a vision of what it could be. The other partner wanted to keep the hotel, but we didn’t see any value in that. I gave them an offer to purchase the whole thing, and they accepted.”

Intergulf then pursued the rezoning process, as 25 per cent of the land was to be designated for commercial retail. “That’s why it took so long to get it going,” says Itani. “Otherwise, we could have started after five or six weeks.

“We wanted to do something that would help the community without the hotel being vacant. So we talked to Inn From the Cold, an organization that helps homeless families find accommodation. They had all these families scattered throughout the city in houses, basements, and churches.”

The government, City of Calgary, and other agencies partnered with Intergulf and Inn From the Cold to turn the Westgate Hotel into a temporary home for 21 families.

“We donated the hotel for use during the winter months,” says Itani. Intergulf also donated the furniture from the suites to the families.

“The challenge was I had lots of people interested in the hotel. Financially, it would have been better if I rented it out. I had some very good offers. However, regardless of what you did, you had to open the bar. This is where the cash flow would come from, not the homes themselves. I wanted to make sure the surrounding community knew we were against that. It wasn’t the financial worth we were looking at. It was something to show the good faith of our company.”

Steff Stephansson, past president of Inn From the Cold reported the hotel wasn’t just a place; it was a group of agencies working together. “We all came together and made it work in a very short time frame. It was a unique and unusual opportunity. 
 
“Many of our families come from pretty desperate situations. For example, a wage earner loses a job, there isn’t enough food, and the family is evicted because they can’t come up with the rent. They don’t have enough for a security deposit and are going from having a roof to living without one, literally overnight. Families need time to reassess where they are. It can be pretty rough when rental accommodation is high and you can only get part time work. Some families come here from other centres thinking it was the land of milk and honey. They may not have the skills to get a job.”

All the families have since been relocated, while Itani continues to make progress on the planned condominium development.

“This site itself is very unique,” he says. “It’s very highly exposed. It’s on a main thoroughfare – Bow Trail – a very high volume traffic area with a shopping mall across the street and a golf course on the other side. It’s a little island of real estate that you can develop into a really nice neighborhood, a destination high-rise community.

“It’s going to bring lots of value to that community. These buildings are going to be quite visible. The architect came up with the idea of having the three towers. The way they are positioned, each has a clear view on all sides. One doesn’t obstruct the other. Besides a full amenity building, there will be a two-level underground parkade of over 900 parking stalls. The remaining property will be landscaped with park and walking areas with a Plus 15 overpass joining up to the shopping center.” 

The project will be erected in three phases, with pre-sales starting sometime around October. The development itself will take anywhere from four to six years to complete.

In the meantime, Itani stays in touch with some of the family members from the hotel. “We’re part of the community. We’re part of the society. We should help each other. You can’t just take. You have to give back sometimes.”

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