Developers of one of the most dramatic additions to Vancouver’s hospitality scene are gambling on a combination of high-stakes action, flexible convention and event space and extravagant relaxation. Central to the new $600 million Parq Vancouver complex, which opened in the fall of 2017 as British Columbia’s largest private development, is a sprawling two-storey, 72,000-square-foot casino – and a vision to bring the city’s natural splendour inside the facility’s two hotels and their shared meeting venues.
For a lot of people who come to Vancouver for meetings or conventions, the mundane four walls of a convention hall or meeting venue blunt the renowned scenery and West Coast atmosphere. That’s a shortcoming the giant new entertainment and accommodation centre is designed to overcome, according to Marion Harper Treskin, general manager of the two Marriott hotels at Parq Vancouver.
In addition to the use of natural wood accents inside the buildings and vast floor-to-ceiling windows, a 30,000-square-foot park on the sixth floor connects visually to the city skyline, presenting views unlike anything else in town.
Adjacent to BC Place stadium, the Parq Vancouver is bookended by two new hotels – Western Canada’s first JW Marriott and The Douglas, a boutique Marriott Autograph Collection hotel. The LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold-crafted JW has 329 guest rooms, including 44 suites and three “luxury suites,” as well as an exclusive two-floor villa. Named in homage to the iconic fir tree and featuring natural elements throughout, the Douglas includes 188 rooms and suites.
The two hotels buttress shared common areas, including 60,000 square feet of meeting venues, which Harper Treskin touts as unparalleled in the city. The six floors between the two hotels – which insiders call “the podium” – include the two-storey casino, the lobbies of the two hotels, the convention level and an array of restaurants and lounges.
The Parq Grand, Vancouver’s largest hotel ballroom – almost 16,000 square feet, accommodating 1,800 people – is the centrepiece of a maximum of 23 meeting spaces.
“Outside of the ballroom, we have this beautiful pre-function space that spans the whole length of the building,” she says, “and the front of it is floor-to-ceiling windows.” The pre-function space alone is 23,000 square feet, overlooking False Creek and the Cambie Street Bridge.
The Fairview ballroom, one of the smaller venues – though still sizable at 4,400 square feet – features three walls of floor-to-ceiling windows in a long, narrow space intended for hospitality and social events, like weddings.
“The beautiful thing about the Fairview ballroom is that it has an outdoor terrace,” Harper Treskin says. This could accommodate 200 for dinner or many more for cocktails. “It’s such a unique feature on the convention floor to have an outdoor space. It’s fully covered, so you can use it year-round.”
“Built-in flexibility” is how she describes the convention level, which can be broken up in multiple ways to accommodate varying types of events and a diverse range of group sizes.
The choice of hotels within a single complex is another form of flexibility, she says.
“It’s luxury of choice,” says Harper Treskin. “It allows convention planners an option to have a lifestyle luxury property, which is the Douglas, or the luxury property of the JW, which is refined luxury.”
The extravagant gaming floors replace the Edgewater Casino, formerly located in the Plaza of Nations. Scott Menke, CEO of Paragon Gaming, which ran Edgewater and now operates the Parq casino, always envisioned developing an international destination resort, Harper Treskin says, and Parq Vancouver is the realization of that dream.
In addition to two hotels, a casino and a plethora of meeting and event spaces, Parq Vancouver includes eight restaurants and lounges. Under the guidance of Las Vegas restaurateur Elizabeth Blau and Canadian chef Kim Canteenwalla, both James Beard award nominees, the menus feature Asian influence and West Coast ingredients.
Canteenwalla has said Vancouverites’ renowned culinary adventurousness allows the Parq to present a diversity of options. Among the offerings is Honey Salt, serving regionally inspired, farm-to-table plates made from locally sourced ingredients; BC Kitchen, offering twists on classic comfort foods; and Mrkt East, inspired by Singapore night markets.
Adjacent to the sixth-floor park is the Victor, a destination for steaks and Pacific seafoods. D/6 Bar and Lounge is an indoor-outdoor “sky bar” doubling as the hospitality venue in the lobby of the Douglas.
A few short years ago, the area around BC Place was an entertainment backwater. Harper Treskin promises Parq Vancouver will reinvent not only the immediate area, but the city itself.
“When the other parts of town are going to sleep,” she says, “that’s when we come to life.”