MUN innovators recharge Battery Hotel
Posted on November 19, 2021 | By Alexander Chafe | 1 Comment
Did you stay here? With arguably one of the best locations in the province, the Battery Hotel on Signal Hill in St. John’s, N.L. operated for 50 years. Guests came to enjoy unobstructed panoramic views of the ocean, icebergs and seabirds. But view alone is not enough and the facility was shuttered until Memorial University purchased the hotel with plans to renovate it into an extension of their campus. Though the building has had significant changes over the years, it still stands, including its picturesque views.
Physican-turned-entrepreneur Dr. Harry Roberts began initial construction of the 126-room Battery Hotel in 1962. It was located on Signal Hill, adjacent to a national historic site known for its links to the military and the first transoceanic wireless signal. Despite a promising start, the hotel went into receivership in the 1980s and was purchased by investors in 1992.
To get the hotel back on its feet, the first order of business was a major facelift. Renovations included roof work, refurnishing, adding fitness facilities, room remodeling and expanding conference space. The work paid off. In the summer of 1999, the hotel had a 95 per cent occupancy, according to an article in the National Post.
The renaissance, however, was short-lived; the Battery Hotel closed for good on December 27, 2012.
In 2013, Memorial University acquired the hotel for $9 million, noting plans to invest another $16.2 million in renovations. The building would provide housing for graduate students and office space. But, the first step was consulting partners and the community to get their take on what should be done with the space.
External renovations began in May of 2015 and months later applications opened for graduate student residence. Hotel rooms were converted into 87 one-bedroom apartments with private bathrooms, and a shared kitchen and lounge area on each floor. Renovations continued in 2016, including demolition of the oldest wing of the hotel and changes to the main building for office and event space.
Construction was completed in 2018. The result was a beautiful space with floor-to-ceiling windows, showcasing the views of the building’s landmark location.
After a $7-million investment from Emera Inc. in 2018, the majority of the building with office and event space was named the Emera Innovation Exchange (EIX). The university describes it as “public and innovation space at Memorial’s Signal Hill Campus”. Home to the Genesis Centre, the Harris Centre, the Gardiner Centre and more, innovation is certainly in the air.
Signal Hill Campus
Memorial’s Signal Hill Campus now includes the student residence and EIX at the old Battery Hotel building, and the Johnson Geo Centre (gifted to the university in 2019). Pre-pandemic, the residence was at 100% capacity, but with most graduate students being from overseas, the Tower Wing was temporarily converted into isolation housing.
At the EIX Conference Centre, Memorial currently hosts online and hybrid events, and is starting to resume normal operations, with many tentative bookings for 2022.
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