Luxury aurora lodge breaks ground on Dettah Road

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photo courtesy of Coromandel Aurora Lodge Ltd.
Skywatch Lodge and Spa will span 41,000 square feet on the Dettah road.

Construction has begun on the new luxury lodge on the Dettah road– which means the resort is on track to begin accepting reservations in January.

Coromandel Aurora Lodge Ltd., got the go ahead from the Mackenzie Valley Land and Waterboard to begin construction on 41,000 square feet of new buildings on what was once the Somba K’e Treatment Centre.

The 37-room five-star Skywatch Lodge and Spa will in

clude a spa, fine dining restaurant and heated outdoor infinity pool, all for a cool $25 million investment. The foundation work will be put out to tender for a Yellowknife company by the end of the month, but Deneen Allen, the CEO of Solstice Destinations, one of partners behind the Lodge, said much of the rest of the buildings are lying in wait in Alberta. The guest wing, maintenance area and staff quarters are all modular construction, while the main lodge and spa will be built out of pre-fabricated panels imported like so much posh flat-pack Ikea furniture.

“It’ll happen very quickly. The building will be closed-in by winter,” said Allen.

Allen said cost was a factor in the decision to go that route, but also concern for the natural environment around the lodge.

“We didn’t want to have a full on construction site there because of trying to preserve the beauty of the setting,” she said.

photo courtesy of Deneen Allen
The 37-room luxury destination, designed by Yellowknife architect Simon Taylor, includes a large amount of glass for optimal aurora viewing. Construction begins this month.

That natural setting is important as it’s the crux of plans to lure visitors to the Lodge, where rooms go for $1,324 per person per night, all inclusive. The lodge can host up to 74 guests, and the entire resort can be booked for $60,000 per night.

But the appeal has more to do with what’s outside the lodge. In November, when the development was first announced, Allen described the main activity at the lodge as “staring into space, literally.”

That’s been taken into account by Taylor Architecture Group, the Yellowknife based firm designing the Lodge.

“There’s an interest for the clients to experience the wilderness sand the northern lights and this sort of sense of what Northern Canada is really. So we’re trying to design to accommodate that sort of thing,” said architect Simon Taylor, adding the Lodge includes “considerable amounts of glass” in what he describes as a “judicious use of glass to maximum effect”– the better to spot Northern Lights.

“There’s a lot of glass! I don’t want to talk about my heating bill!” said Allen.

The Lodge will also include a focus on regional culture, from tailored spa services and menus in the dining room to locally produced art installations in the guest rooms. Allen said the Lodge will be partnering with local tour operators to provide guest activities. “I would say that every one of them is excited to work with us,” she said. “We’re not creating any tour products. We’re using all of the local operators for all of the guest experiences. It should provide a pretty stead demand for the local operators for sure.”

The Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment (ITI) found the number of tourists arriving to view the aurora rose 48 per cent from 2014-15 to 2015-16, with the total visitors to the NWT rising 11 per cent. In 2015-16, 93,910 visitors arrived in the NWT, spending an estimated $167.1 million. ITI anticipates the tourism industry will be worth $207 million by 2021– which is why the department is investing $2.5 million in tourism in 2016-17.

Next month, Allen said Solstice Destinations will be hosting a round table for local wellness and spa service provides in Yellowknife, with a job fair coming in the fall. Skywatch will employ up to 40 employees, split between part and full time positions.

Allen said the lodge is on track to open in August 2018. Trips to Skywatch are already being marketed to the travel industry, and will be open to the public in the new year.

“We think it’s a very positive, encouraging story for Yellowknife. We’re proud to be doing this and proud to be working with everybody up there.”