Highway 401 service centres to get revamped - The Windsor Star

Rest centres to suit all tastes

Highway 401 motorists will soon go from nothing to quite something.

The 222-kilometre stretch of 401 that has been a wasteland for service centres the last two years should seem like ritzy row in comparison.

The Ontario government announced Wednesday that 20 service centres on highways 401 and 400 will be revamped by 2013. Four of the first seven chic new affairs will open near Windsor.

Washrooms and Canadian Tire gas bars and convenience stores will open in early July at the Tilbury North, Tilbury South, West Lorne and Dutton centres.

"The stretch down by you will get the first breath of those new-concept buildings," said Bruce Allen, president of Canadian Tire Petroleum. "They're quite remarkable."

The glass-filled buildings provide an angular look from the outside and lots to choose from inside -- a significant difference from the 1960s-era buildings that started coming down in May 2008.

"Motorists will have very modern Canadian Tire gas bar fuel facilities with small convenience stores," Allen said.

"They will have all-new equipment with stations as good as you can find in the marketplace."

By early fall, restaurants and stores will start serving food.

Phase 1 will include A&W, Burger King, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Pizza Pizza, Tim Hortons, and The Market retail stores. But over time, the service centres will include a wider mix, such as Brioche Dore, Casey's, East Side Mario's, Extreme Pita, New York Fries, Quiznos Subs, Pusateri's, Starbucks Coffee, Cold Stone Creamery, Teriyaki Experience, Yogen Fruz and Cinnabon.

The 20 revamped centres will cost $300 million to build, and will improve accessibility, be energy efficient and create between 2,000 and 2,500 service-centre jobs and 350 construction jobs. Three additional centres will be updated by 2018.

The province of Ontario signed a 50-year agreement with Maryland-based HMSHost Corporation and Ontario-based Kilmer Van Nostrand Co. to run the facilities under the banner of Host Kilmer Service Centres. The network of roadside centres is expected to generate $100 million annually, thanks to the 500,000 people who travel those roads daily, according to a news release from HMSHost.

On-site Ontario Tourism information centres will be located at the stops at Tilbury South and Bainsville, near the Quebec border, since they are considered "gateway" locations where tourists might stop.

"The idea is to provide more variety," said Susan Goyette, spokeswoman for HMSHost, which has operations in 14 countries. "Each centre won't be a duplicate of the offerings at the next one."