A proposed youth hostel for downtown Ketchum has garnered vocal support from the City Council, but the lack of necessary parking has "indefinitely suspended" the project for the time being.
Chris Campbell and Irwin Sentilles, representing the Ketchum-based design firm First Fourth, were back in front of the council on Monday, a month after they first made the plans public.
Although he declined to name the owners of the property, Sentilles stated in an email the following day that they have exhausted their efforts in a search for a viable and affordable solution to overnight parking for hostel patrons. If the city is able to tackle the parking problem, there will be an opportunity to revisit the hostel plans, Sentilles stated.
As presented, the hostel would be located in the existing 411 Building at the northeast corner of Leadville Avenue and Sixth Street, and would hold 64 beds at a cost of between $35 and $50 per night to target 20- to 35-year-old guests.
At the initial meeting in July, Sentilles said the owners of the building came to First Fourth with the idea in February, looking to assess the feasibility of creating a hostel at that location.
While the penthouse condominium on the top floor would remain, the other three floors would be gutted and redesigned to include beds, lockers, lounges and a kitchen area, among other facilities.
As the outside of the building would remain unchanged, the renovation would not require a design review or public hearing process.
However, the project's future remains doubtful as the problem of sufficient overnight parking remains.
The council was not supportive of a proposed one-year agreement that would allow up to 30 youth hostel guests to leave cars overnight in the northeast corner of the city-owned Park and Ride lot adjacent to the Wood River Community YMCA. Council members expressed a number of concerns over this arrangement, most notably regarding the fact that the hostel owners would face the same problem after the yearlong lease expired.
"What other options are there going to be one year from now?" asked Mayor Randy Hall. "We could face a situation where the city could have to work out a solution for them if the hostel is successful."
Curtis Kemp said such a lease could prove problematic if another business later wanted a similar agreement in the future.
"I don't want to shelve it completely," said Councilman Baird Gourlay, who added that perhaps the city could charge for overnight parking at the public lot across Sixth Street from the hostel building.
At the conclusion of the discussion, Hall said he hoped the rejection of the Park and Ride lot proposal wouldn't put the developers off the project entirely.
Michael Carpenter, head of the Ketchum Community Development Corporation's Affordable Workforce Housing Team, said the hostel could possibly partner with a private landowner to lease a vacant lot in town, such as the one behind the Sawtooth Club on the corner of Washington Avenue and Second Street.
At the same meeting, Carpenter received authorization from the council for a one-year lease option for site control on the Park and Ride lot, allowing the CDC to conduct feasibility analysis for three potential projects.
Included is an affordable workforce housing project with condominiums and apartments for sale in the near future to "service-type employees," as stated in the CDC contract. The Workforce Housing Team would also study the availability of public and private funds that could help finance construction of such a project.
The CDC's Transportation Team will also look at using the site as a transportation hub, in conjunction with Mountain Rides, the Idaho Transportation Department and U.S. Department of Agriculture Community Facilities.
The third feasibility study will be for a combination hospitality and culinary school and dormitory. Working with the College of Southern Idaho and Ketchum, the CDC's Economic Development Team will analyze the proximity to and relationships with current and future hotels, the number of possible participants, and the necessary financing to develop the project.
The council unanimously approved the lease for $1 to give the CDC control over the site for one year. Councilman Larry Helzel asked Carpenter to keep the council informed on which option the CDC determines the most feasible before proceeding.