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Work on long-delayed Insignia Hotel now nearly complete

Cathy Dobson A massive property redevelopment costing about $18 million is nearing completion at the former Drawbridge Inn on Christina Street.
Outside the reception area of the new Insignia Hotel are, from left: COO Lisa Hennessey, guest services manager Robert Munro, and food and beverage manager Kerri Fransham. The hotel is now expected to open in September. Cathy Dobson

Cathy Dobson 

A massive property redevelopment costing about $18 million is nearing completion at the former Drawbridge Inn on Christina Street.

All the major work is done and the furniture being moved in at the new Insignia Hotel, says guest services manager Robert Munro.

He expects an opening date in mid-September, two years after renovations began.

“It will be like something people haven’t seen in Sarnia before,” said Munro who joined the staff in November.

Insignia will have 84 guest rooms, including 16 suites, a fine dining restaurant called Legacy and a lobby bar named Regner’s, for the original owner Regner Blok Andersen.

Blok Andersen built the Drawbridge Inn in the 1960s and for decades it was considered Sarnia’s premier hotel. Guests have included Prime Ministers Pierre Trudeau, Brian Mulroney and Stephen Harper.

The Drawbridge Inn had numerous ownerships and several renovations, but became dated.

In 2015, Oakville businessman Malvinder Singh purchased the property and redevelopment began with Singh’s then-business partner Gord Laschinger, who was also involved in a defunct deal to redevelop downtown’s Bayside Centre.

It’s not known if Laschinger is still involved with the Insignia Hotel, but Munro confirmed Singh continues to be an owner.

Construction has hit numerous snags that include a change in contractors, reworked architectural and engineering plans, and a decision to open the new restaurant simultaneously with the hotel.

But a job fair scheduled at the hotel for Aug. 2 (10 a.m. – 7 p.m.) and Aug. 3 (10 a.m. – 4 p.m.) is another sign opening day is finally approaching.

Insignia plans to hire about 50 employees as housekeepers, servers, bartenders, front desk attendants, maintenance workers and more.

“We want experience but even more importantly, we want great attitude,” Munro said.

“Insignia will emphasize really great service at an exceptional hotel. Once you step inside and see the reinvention of this hotel, you’ll see how modern, clean and crisp everything is.”

Room rates will start at $165 a night, rising to about $300 for a two-bedroom suite.

Longtime Drawbridge manager Lisa Hennessey has returned as Insignia’s chief operating officer.

The cost of redevelopment, initially estimated at $4 million, is edging closer to $20 million, Hennessey said.

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