Burlington as a convention destination? You heard it here first and there is a guy in this city who makes things like this happen.

News 100 redBy Pepper Parr

August 3rd, 2016


This story has been revised – the number of hotel rooms is closer to 300 + than 500 as originally reported.

Frank McKeown has got part of it figured out.

He is tasked with bringing corporations to the city that will employ people in high tech, high paying jobs – the sort of thing that L3 Wescam does on the North Service Road. Few people know they produce some of the best visual surveillance equipment in the world.

Here is how they tell just a part of their story.

WESCAM has an airborne portfolio of multi-sensor, multi-spectral systems that are deployed worldwide, at varying ranges, and with overlapping fields-of-view, creating the opportunity for uninterrupted surveillance of boarders, forward operating bases, airfields and other vital assets.

McKeown wants more of that kind of company here. But, he will tell you, “companies don’t just up and move every day of the week”.

Three structure project has been the "in the works" since 1985 when developers were given the right to build a 22 storey plus building on the property where the Riviera Waterfront Motel used to exist.

The structure on the corner is going to be a nine storey building with 150+ rooms and convention facilities. A 2018 opening date is the plan.

He knows that Burlington has a great story to tell any organization thinking about a move – and the Burlington Economic Development Corporation does a darn good job of getting the story out – but there is only so much that can be done in terms of promotion.

McKeown will tell you that it is pretty much a belly to belly business. You need to be in front of the people who make the decisions – which isn’t easy.

Waterfront hotel with pier at foot

Tear this one down – build a new one of at least 20 stories along with a second structure close to the water and you have a small cluster of accommodation that can attract small conventions.

But McKeown thinks he has an angle that will work for him and for the city.

The city has a stunning development going up along Lakeshore – the Bridgewater condominium with its 22 stories that will soar into the sky and will be part of a three tower complex that will include a four star Marriott hotel with several hundred rooms.

Yards to the west there are plans for a major redevelopment of the existing Waterfront Hotel. The thinking is for a two or three building project that will be oriented to the west with the view right along Spencer Smith Park’s Naval Promenade.

With two hotels that will have something in the order of 300 rooms and a Performing Arts Centre that can hold 700 people in its Main Theatre, Burlington is suddenly well positioned to become a small convention destination.

Frank McKeough, former Chief of Staff to MAyor Rick Goldring asked about how politicians can handle complex issues when voters tend not to be informed and don't have the background needed to arrive at decisions.

Frank McKeown, former Chief of Staff to Mayor Rick Goldring is now the Executive Director of the Burlington Economic Development Corporation.

Making this work for the city will mean a total transformation of the current Tourism office operation. More selling power on the team – and then getting out there and learning who is holding their convention when and making a pitch for their business.

Burlington has a very unique story to tell and a lovely setting.

BPAC raod not done yet

A great locale for small convention events – has the Performing Arts Centre team begun to think how they will work with the Tourism office and the two new hotels we will have within five years?

That Marriott hotel isn’t open yet but it isn’t too early to start pitching for that convention business. Is there anyone in the Tourism office talking to the hotel people and planning on how that convention business can be brought to town?

McKeown will be away for some holiday – and he is said to be taking up Wednesday golf in a serious way. Great business gets done on golf courses.

We will wait to hear what the Tourism office has in terms of a work plan for the balance of 2016 and 2017.

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5 comments to Burlington as a convention destination? You heard it here first and there is a guy in this city who makes things like this happen.

  • Enid Lacie

    Absolutely James!
    Speaking for the silent majority on the need to develop responsibly and attract a vibrant and prosperous tax
    base I say bring it all on…in spades! The naysayers are those very folks who carp about high taxes, which of course is due to having a dwindling commercial base in our municipal economy.
    It’s about time we started having this kind of thinking.

  • James

    Burlington needs more of these types of developments. Fantastic news for Burlington’s future!

  • astheworldturns

    Destroying the waterfront!!!

  • Tracey

    Awful awful awful so angry about this building being built!!! Takes my view from south of highway!! Burlington is so beautiful why wreck it with this awful building!!! BAD decision BURLINGTON! B

    • Shannon

      So the building is awful because it ruins your view? I’d prefer the city makes decisions which will benefit the whole community–now, and in years to come.

      This development allows for more public access to the lake (you’ll recall the not-so-lovely Riviera motel owned the property right up to the water, providing no public access there at all.)

      It is providing work RIGHT NOW to construction workers, engineers, etc, and will create more work in the next couple of years for large numbers of tradespeople and then will provide even more employment for Burlingtonians when the hotel is up and running. Local furniture stores, paint stores, restaurants, dentists, hair stylists, etc. all benefit from developments like this. I could go on about how much it will increase Burlington’s tax revenues, the positive effect it will have on Burlington’s businesses through increased tourism, the added vibrancy to our downtown…

      Losing one’s scenic view is unfortunate, and allowing such a high building to be constructed right on the water is probably not a decision the city would ever make today, but what’s done is done. Burlington businesses and residents will ultimately benefit from this development.