Friday, July 9, 2010

Resort developers want more construction phases

Warm Springs Ranch Resort team says financing dictates changes


By TREVON MILLIARD
Express Staff Writer

The majority of Warm Springs Ranch Resort’s main hotel wouldn’t be built during Phase 1, as originally planned, if developers’ proposed changes receive city approval. It would be broken up in multiple phases. Courtesy graphic

Construction of Warm Springs Ranch Resort may go differently than the three-phased building plan that the city of Ketchum approved in November.

Developer Stan Castleton, CEO of DDRM Greatplace, claimed at a City Council meeting on Tuesday—and repeated at Wednesday's Planning and Zoning Commission meeting—that the planned first phase of the golf course and resort development is too ambitious and expensive to be financed.

Under Phase 1, Castleton is required to start construction by August 2013 and build 53 percent of the resort's total 634,000 square feet of building construction. Phase 1 is planned to include 46,100 square feet of villas, a golf course, stream restoration, and 24,000 square feet of townhouses. It would also include part of the hotel with 51 condos, 21,730 square feet of public space including a restaurant, gift shop and lobby, and 39,000 square feet of back-of-house space, such as storage.

"This is too much to carry all at once," Castleton said.

He said it's become apparent that the phases need to each be limited to a $100 million construction cost, which would require more than three phases. Castleton said funding is already available for the scaled-back Phase 1—which developers are calling the Sanctuary Phase—meaning construction could start sooner than previously planned.

Under the new plan for the site south of Warm Springs Road, the initial phase would end with a finished nine-hole, par-3 golf course, Warm Springs Creek restoration, Warm Springs Ranch Restaurant and about 50 units of hotel rooms and lakeside cabins.

The development agreement gives developers until August 2013 to start construction and until August 2019 to finish all construction. Castleton said that wouldn't change and neither would the resort's overall design to much of an extent, just the number of construction phases it takes to get there.

Construction would be broken into smaller, less expensive chunks, maybe six or so.

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Ketchum Associate Planner Mark Goodman said that based on conversations with the developers, the phasing and design changes are within the development agreement and city approvals and wouldn't need to go through the whole approval process again.

But, Castleton said, proposed changes are still preliminary. At this point, he's just floating the idea to the city. He said that if the P&Z and the council show support, he would file an application in the near future to amend the phasing plan. Approval from the P&Z would be required for the amended plan.

Goodman said the application could come in August, especially since both the council and P&Z encouraged the phasing changes, with the understanding that it could start construction sooner and give the city its first four-star hotel earlier than expected.

Councilman Larry Helzel called the phasing changes "favorable."

"This kind of plan might enable you to get the project in the ground sooner," he said.

Castleton said that's the point. He said Phase 1 would be started as soon as possible once approved, but he didn't commit to a date. However, he said he wants to move forward now because a finished hotel, golf course and housing units at a sooner date gives a "big boost" for sales and marketing.

He said the resort is a major sponsor of the Sun Valley Center for the Arts' Wine Auction running from July 22-24, which will provide an opportune setting to approach potential clients. He said they'd be more impressed if some kind of finished product is on the horizon.

Helzel summed up the council's opinion at the close of Tuesday's meeting.

"The feeling here is push this forward," he said.

But approval of phasing changes would be up to the P&Z. Commissioners also offered their support and said the issue could be settled in one meeting, but the public needs to be able to weigh in.

Commissioner Steve Cook offered one warning to developers.

"If you break it into too many phases, guests are going to be living in a perpetual construction area," he said.

Trevon Milliard: tmilliard@mtexpress.com




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