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Inn of Waterloo owner says hotel closing because they needed more help after 2021 fire

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The Inn of Waterloo, a landmark in the community for decades, closed for good over the weekend.

Owner Sharon Hales said a devastating fire in 2021, combined with pandemic pressures, were the main reasons for shutting down.

“A little piece of my heart is missing now,” an emotional Hales told CTV News. “The people really made this building.”

She’s had several partners since starting eight years ago, including the HopeSpring, a cancer support centre, who became a tenant in 2017.

“When HopeSpring Cancer Support Centre faced a potential closure, the partnership with The Inn of Waterloo was a lifesaver for our organization,” said spokesperson Shawn Hlowatzki in a statement to CTV News. “Thinking outside of the box and repurposing underutilized space allowed for a unique partnership that allowed for sustainability and a new home.”

FIRE IN 2021

In February 2021, a fire destroyed one of the towers at the hotel.

The walls remain charred and windows boarded up.

“Almost three years and that part of the building is still in the same shape as it was basically the night of the fire,” Hales admitted.

At the time, fire officials pegged the damage at around $1 million but Hales believes it was much more.

“If I had to rebuild some of those guestrooms it would cost tens of thousands of dollars to do that. And there's 76 of them.”

A fire at The Inn of Waterloo displaced more than 100 people in Feb. 2021.

Hales said it was too hard for them to rebuild after the fire.

“Unfortunately, because we lost half of [our] inventory, it was hard to come back from that. Our insurance costs were raised because of the fire. So with all those things, it was just almost unaffordable to keep the building going.”

HOUSE OF FRIENDSHIP AND REGION PARTNERSHIP

Four months before the fire, the space was being used a temporary men’s shelter, displacing about 100 people.

Hales said the Region of Waterloo supplied the funding and the House of Friendship helped operate the shelter, while the Inn of Waterloo supplied the space.

“But then as soon as the fire happened and they left, then it's been nothing,” Hales claims, in reference to the partnership with the region and the House of Friendship.

Hales feels both should have done more to help after the fire.

Damage to The Inn of Waterloo on Dec. 5, 2023. (Heather Senoran/CTV Kitchener)

“We went into it knowing we had good partners, and that we were helping people. And when they walked away, we were left on our own,” she said.

A spokesperson for the House of Friendship did not address Hales’ allegations in their statement to CTV News.

“House of Friendship is saddened to hear about the closing of The Inn of Waterloo. Although we haven’t worked directly with the Inn since 2021, we’ve had a great working relationship with them in the past.”

The Region of Waterloo did not respond to CTV News’s request for comment by our deadline.

WHAT’S NEXT

Staff said most of the hotel’s contents will be sold but there might be an opportunity for community members to buy some of the leftover items at a later date.

CTV News reached out to the owner of the property to find out what will happen next to the site. Drewlo Holdings Inc. said their proposal for the property was made public a year ago, but they're still waiting for approval from the city to begin demolition. According to the plan shared with CTV News, it would include apartments, townhouses and commercial buildings. Drewlo Holdings said they also have a short-term plan for the property but it's not finalized yet.

Hales, meanwhile, remains optimistic about her future.

“Maybe I'll find a little hotel to buy somewhere,” she said.

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