Friday, February 9, 2007

Proposed hotel gets new look, 5 floors

Architects prepare new design for Bald Mountain Hotel on Main Street

Express Staff Writer

A rendering of the Bald Mountain Hotel proposed for Ketchum?s Main Street may prove contentious. The city decided this week not to allow five-floor hotel projects on that street, but the developer said that?s the only way to make the project viable. Graphic courtesy Callison Architects and Bald Mountain LLC

While the city of Ketchum has been courting hotel developers and amending city code to accommodate them, a new rendering of the proposed Bald Mountain Hotel on Main Street may be more than city officials are willing to accept.

Last fall, Bald Mountain LLC, through principal Steve Burnstead, submitted to the city's Planning Department a pre-application design for a four-star, four-story hotel with a residential component.

New drawings of the hotel, at the city's southern gateway, show a five-story hotel.

"Callison Architects' design concept for this project utilizes the natural slopes of the roof to conceal the top floor within the roof structure, giving the appearance at the street level of a much smaller building," Gary Wakatsuki, principal with the firm, wrote in a letter to Burnstead. The letter was given to the Idaho Mountain Express Thursday. "By tucking the uppermost floor into the roof, the resulting dormers and roofs enliven the profile of the project with visual interest that helps the Lodge fit into the existing fabric of the neighborhood. Special attention was placed on the Main Street frontage portion, which will be a four-story building with draping roofs that create a three-story appearance."

Hotel developers such as Burnstead had hoped the city's transfer of development rights system would allow them to purchase development rights to build to five floors. The City Council on Monday rejected Main Street for that scenario; four floors is the maximum that Main Street hotels can build to with the purchase of TDRs.

"We are stunned by this, as we have never had the opportunity or been invited to show the City Council our plans," Steve Burnstead, writing on behalf of Bald Mountain LLC, wrote in a letter to the City Council. The Mountain Express received a copy of the letter Thursday.

"By allowing five stories (which are needed for hotels) in other areas of town and targeting our site as a four story, it puts us at a tremendous competitive disadvantage in relation to all the other potential hotel projects in and around Ketchum," the letter reads. "The gateway areas of town have been designated as hotel areas and were recommended so by the city's hired consultant and stated in the new Master Plan. 

"We feel we have designed a hotel such that the fifth floor will have little to no impact difference than a conventional four-story plan," it states. "We are sensitive to the citizens of Ketchum and their desire to see an attractive project. We want to work to achieve a balance between aesthetics and what is needed to fund the project."

Mayor Randy Hall expressed surprise that Burnstead is set on five floors.

"It's been (my) understanding that Mr. Burnstead's proposal was always four floors," he said by phone Thursday. "The city of Ketchum is looking at what's in the best interest of the entire city. The City Council made a solid decision not to have five floors between River Street and Sixth Street. It had absolutely nothing to do with Mr. Burnstead's project."

The city may consider a five-floor hotel project elsewhere in town where topography would make height less noticeable, Hall added.

A years-long issue over local developer Brian Barsotti's hotel plans for the same site drew criticism from the city and some residents over the height and mass of the proposed building.

In the current downtown master planning process, residents are torn between accommodating growth through additional density while maintaining the small-town charm Ketchum is noted for.

"Like many developers, we feel we have been very patient during the past two years and have tried to create a project that is needed in Ketchum," Burnstead said. "There is great risk in building hotels in Ketchum currently, and the cost to build these types of buildings is staggering. We are all enchanted by the city of Ketchum and would like to create a community amenity here."

Just how and where such amenities should appear, however, remains in question.

"The city is very sensitive to the issue of height on Main Street," Hall said. "There are appropriate places for five floors, and that's the goal, to see where those (projects) should be allowed."

City officials may vote on the TDR ordinance at the City Council's Feb. 20 meeting.

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