Wednesday, March 26, 2008

All is fine for the first in line

Hotel Ketchum leads off public hearings for three new projects

Express Staff Writer

Ketchum-based developer Jack Bariteau gave an in-depth presentation of his proposed Hotel Ketchum to the Planning and Zoning Commission and public on Monday. The four-story, 73-room hotel would be located at the corner of River and Main streets, where Trail Creek Village now sits. Photo by Willy Cook

As opposed to last summer, hotel developers eyeing Ketchum will likely feel a sense of optimism after Jack Bariteau's Hotel Ketchum was warmly received by both members of the public and the Ketchum Planning and Zoning Commission.

On Monday, March 24, Bariteau kicked off with the first of three public workshops on proposed hotel projects scheduled to take place before the commission in an eight-day span.

The workshops are the brainchild of Ketchum Community and Economic Development Director Lisa Horowitz, and are designed to give the commission a chance to request any further information regarded as necessary to make a final decision on a recommendation to the City Council.

If approved, Bariteau's four-story hotel, located at the corner of River and Main streets where Trail Creek Village now sits, would consist of 73 hotel rooms, six penthouse residences, a restaurant and spa. As well there would be about 3,000 square feet of retail shop space.

"Our challenge was to figure out how to bring a better hotel product to town—one that doesn't exist," Bariteau said.

The approximately 148,000-square-foot project would also have 90 underground parking spaces, an observatory available to the public and outdoor-dining and swimming pool terrace areas.

Bariteau, who also developed the Colonnade and Christiania buildings, said the hotel would have a level of service between four and five stars and would be operated by the Piazza Hotel group, which operates the Hotel Healdsburg in Sonoma County, Calif.

"I believe in Ketchum and am very vested here," Bariteau said while displaying renderings of the contemporary building. "It's worth the risk."

In a previous interview, Bariteau said that if everything goes accordingly, it will take 10 to 12 months to draw up plans once the city has approved the project, and another 22 to 24 months for construction.

He estimated the project's cost at $65 million, which would including offsite workforce housing for about 18 employees. While the hotel would have around 90 employees, Bariteau said it would be financially impossible to provide housing for all of them.

"My initial impression is that it's well thought out and aesthetically pleasing," said Ketchum-based real estate agent and developer John Sofro.

Sofro, along with Commissioner Sam Williams, wondered what the economic impact would be to the city. Williams said that while he assumed it would be beneficial, it would help to have a study in the case that the city is asked to contribute funding for the undergrounding of power lines. Bariteau estimated that that would cost about $750,000.

It was one of a few issues for which the commission requested more information.

"That was a good job and we appreciate what you're trying to do for the community," Commissioner Steve Cook said.

Cook added that the commission's concerns weren't an indication of a negative reaction to the presentation, but rather a means of expediting the process.

Other issues included conducting a solar study to determine where the building shadows will fall throughout the year, determining any problems the water table could cause during excavation and ensuring public access to Trail Creek.

Horowitz said city staff would meet with the applicant during the days following the meeting to draw up the definitive list of requested information and that Bariteau's proposal would be back before the city on June 2 and 3.

On Monday, March 31, the commission will discuss the workforce housing plan for the proposed Ketchum Lodge and hold another public workshop on Tuesday, April 1, regarding the Warm Springs Ranch Resort.

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