Two of Canada’s most famous hotels – Toronto’s Royal York and the Hotel Vancouver – have been put up for sale by Quebec’s giant pension plan, the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, which is moving out of the lodging business.
The hotels, both managed by Fairmont Hotels and Resorts, date back to the glory days of the railroad and were once among the most impressive in the world. The Royal York opened in 1929 after the Canadian Pacific Railway decided it wanted to build the largest hotel in the British Commonwealth.
When it opened, the opulent venue had more than 1,000 rooms and rose up 28 floors, making it the tallest building in the Commonwealth. The Hotel Vancouver opened in 1939 just in time for a visit by King George VI and Queen Elizabeth.
The Caisse, which manages nearly $300-billion in total assets, has been unloading a number of high-profile hotels in recent months as it steps away from what is considered the riskier side of the real estate business. Last year the plan sold the Chateau Laurier in Ottawa and it has put the Empress in Victoria up for sale. It has also sold more than a dozen properties in Europe and the United States.
The pension plan’s real estate division, Ivanhoe Cambridge, now owns about 10 hotels, down from a peak of 70 a few years ago.
The change in ownership could lead to significant alterations at the properties, although they will almost certainly continue to be run as Fairmont hotels. Fairmont’s contract to operate both runs for several decades and the company will play a role in choosing the buyer.
Work has been done to renovate or upgrade more than 200 rooms in the 1,363-room Royal York, and it has been decided to also do some work on the lobby level of Hotel Vancouver before selling it.