The 50,000-person town of Saint-Hyacinthe has been nicknamed the “Agricultural Technopolis” of Canada due to its thriving food production and biotechnology sectors. However, until recently, Saint-Hyacinthe was missing one key element: premium accommodation.
But with the introduction of the Sheraton Saint-Hyacinthe Hotel, not only has the town gained a handsome hotel, but also a space for the community to gather.
The new Sheraton property rises high amid the surrounding farmland of southern Quebec, and with 205 guest rooms spread over 16 floors, it has swiftly become the most prominent architectural structure in town.
Directly connected to the Saint-Hyacinthe Convention Center and the Galeries St-Hyacinthe shopping mall, the hotel sets a radical new standard for the region. Unencumbered by other tall buildings, the view from the rooftop lounge offers the opportunity to see the surrounding landscape. In all directions, one is able to see fields.
This is the breadbasket of Quebec, and embracing community and agriculture is at the heart of the Sheraton Saint-Hyacinthe Hotel design.
“We wanted to create a whole ambience, a whole experience,” explains owner Marc Bibeau, CEO of Beauward Shopping Centres Ltd., “not just a place to come and do your business, but a space to interact and simply be.”
Inherent in the design of any convention center is the notion of bringing people together, the curation of physical space so that people can gather to share common interests and exchange ideas. The Sheraton Saint-Hyacinthe Hotel is an extension — quite literally — of this idea. Attached to a convention center (which offers 45,000 square feet of event space), the idea of community is vital.
The first thing guests notice is the brightness and openness of the Sheraton lobby, which then transitions naturally into the lobby of the convention space.
“You need big spaces to accommodate the large number of convention delegates,” says Vice President of Development and Project Manager André Fortin, “but you don’t want it to feel too open because then it’s intimidating.”
Throughout the lobby, curated smaller spaces, such as the sofas smartly arranged around a fireplace, encourage people to be together. Even the hotel lobby bar — charmingly called Le Barsa Lounge after a local covered bridge — is designed with gathering in mind; the open-panel walls invite guests into the space, but the panels can also be closed for intimate meetings or small parties.
An important part of the architectural design was to create connections between structures. How do you link a hotel not only to a convention center, but also to the neighboring shopping mall? With clear architectural connections and by simply omitting barriers.
If guests are staying at the hotel, they can walk across an enclosed bridge to have easy access to stores. If visitors (or locals) are attending a conference in the convention center, they can drift to the hotel bar for a libation. The openness means that people flow freely between the spaces.
The hotel’s interior features tasteful design contrasts. The use of classic materials such as wood, leather, marble and chrome establishes a feeling of luxury, but enormous windows contrast any darker touches with a sense of lightness. Animal portraits wink at the husbandry roots of the region.
The motif of a hexagonal pattern is found throughout the hotel, referencing strands of DNA and chemical equations — a gentle nod to the local community’s biotechnology sectors. The hexagonal theme is found in the lobby carpet, in the walls of the bar, and even in the tiles in the showers.
Farming is not just something that happens outside the property. The three-season rooftop garden offers further space for gathering and growing. Conference attendees can stroll with colleagues between sessions. Event organizers can host sunset cocktail parties or arrange an outdoor yoga class. The garden itself offers a selection of herbs — dill, parsley, rosemary, thyme, oregano — as well as squash, cucumber, eggplant and more. The harvest is incorporated into the convention center’s meals.
Naturally, many guests come for the convention center. But others choose the Sheraton Saint-Hyacinthe because it offers the amenities of an urban property but without the bustle of being in a city. Guests can drive into Montreal for a meal or simply spend a few days relaxing and taking advantage of the pool, gym, spa and retail options.
If You Build It
There were no guarantees that such a property would work, especially in a more rural area of Quebec.
“We wanted to make things nicer than they needed to be,” says Bibeau.
Still, the design team proceeded with a type of “Field of Dreams” mantra: If you build it, they will come. And the decision is beginning to pay off. Not only is the hotel succeeding with guests, but it has also become a success story in the region.
“The response has been great from the citizens of Saint-Hyacinthe,” states Bibeau. “This hotel is beyond what anyone was expecting.”