Ketchum hotel in jeopardy
Barsotti considers ‘throwing in the
By GREGORY FOLEY
Express Staff Writer
The future of a proposed 80-room luxury
hotel in central Ketchum appears to be in jeopardy, after developer Brian
Barsotti announced this week that he is extremely close to abandoning the
The approximately 48,000-square-foot
former site of the Bald Mountain Lodge in central Ketchum had been partially
cleared to accommodate a new 80-room hotel. But property owner Brian Barsotti
said this week that he is considering putting the property up for sale for
approximately $7 million. Express photos by Willy Cook
Barsotti, who for four years had planned
to build a hotel on an approximately one-acre parcel at 151 Main St., said
Monday that he intends to put the proposed hotel site up for sale soon.
"I was very hopeful of being in the ground
this summer, but that is not going to happen," Barsotti announced Monday at
Ketchum City Hall.
The statement came just three months after
Barsotti announced that he had brought on Mariel Hemingway, the granddaughter of
acclaimed author Ernest Hemingway, as a 50-percent partner in the project. The
move gave Barsotti renewed confidence that he could attract investors and a
recognized hotel operator for the estimated $35 million to $40 million project.
"We’ve talked to Four Seasons, we’ve
talked to Hilton, we’ve talked to Marriott, and none of them are interested,"
Barsotti said Monday.
All told, "14 or 15" high-profile hotel
operators declined to become involved in the project, Barsotti said.
Ironically, Barsotti issued the majority
of his statements before the Ketchum City Council, as the council discussed new
zoning code language designed to encourage the development of hotels in the
city’s commercial core.
Despite the somewhat hopeless nature of
his comments, Barsotti declined to confirm that he had completely "thrown in the
towel" on the proposed hotel, which was planned to take the place of the defunct
Bald Mountain Lodge.
The developer said he is planning to
travel to New York City later this month to engage in negotiations with an
established investor there.
However, he said the investor—like others
approached since the hotel plan was approved by the city last September—is not
interested in becoming a partner in the project unless the majority of the rooms
can be sold as so-called "fractional-ownership units."
Barsotti said the hotel industry in the
last two years has gravitated sharply toward projects that allow for the sale of
the individual residential units to fractional owners who purchase specific
blocks of time.
Developing fractional-ownership units
raises large sums of money to finance costly hotel projects, he said, and at the
same time allows the units to be managed as hotel rooms when they are not
occupied by owners.
"If you look around America right now, and
around the world, there are very few pure hotels being built," Barsotti said.
City approval of the proposed hotel
project came with restrictions mandating that a minimum of 61 units in the
building be maintained as traditional hotel rooms. The remainder could be
operated as fractional-ownership units.
The new Four Seasons Residence Club
completed last year in Jackson Hole, Wyo.—at an estimated cost of $225
million—is entirely composed of fractional-ownership units.
Another factor in the demise of the
project, Barsotti said, is the efforts of many resort communities to provide
attractive incentives to developers to build hotels.
The city of Saint-Moritz, Switzerland, he
said, lured away a potential European partner with an offer to finance a
two-level underground parking garage for a proposed hotel there.
However, Barsotti this week said he is not
blaming the city for the apparent failure of the project, which gained city
approval only after being scrutinized in at least 15 public meetings that
spanned more than a year.
Barsotti estimated that he has spent
approximately $600,000 developing the project but admitted that the process was
"a great learning experience."
Barsotti noted that he will likely ask
approximately $7 million for the parcel at 151 Main St.
The controversial project was first
proposed in 2002, when Barsotti disclosed plans for a 59-foot-high, 81-room
structure. The Ketchum Planning and Zoning Commission approved the project but
the City Council in January 2003 sent it back to the P&Z, largely because its
proposed height required a waiver from the city’s 40-foot height maximum in the
Barsotti promptly redesigned the hotel to
reduce its height to 47 feet. The P&Z approved the new design and height waiver
before the City Council issued final approval in September 2003.
The revised three-story,
84,000-square-foot development, which would cover an entire city block, is
designed to include a 3,800 square-foot conference room, an underground parking
garage and a fitness center.
Barsotti, with a handful of city officials
supporting him, argued repeatedly that Ketchum needed a luxury hotel to draw
business from groups and conferences into the downtown core.
Harold Moniz, Ketchum planning director,
on Tuesday said he believes the city needs to continue to make efforts to
encourage hotel development in the city center.
"Obviously I’m disappointed," Moniz said.
"I’ve thought this was a good project all along."