Friday, December 23, 2011

Knob Hill Inn fetes itself

Shrinking Ketchum hotel sector gets a needed boost

Express Staff Writer

Guests at the Knob Hill Innís reception included, from left, Idaho Gov. Butch Otter, Skip Oppenheimer and Jim Cimino.

Many Wood River Valley residents have long wondered what the next chapter of Ketchum's Knob Hill Inn would look like—whether it would be open to the public, whether it would remain an inn at all.

On Wednesday, more than 300 guests invited to a private reopening party came to see for themselves that after a $750,000 renovation, the boutique hotel would continue its original objective well into the future.

"We're thrilled the hotel is reopened," John Oppenheimer, co-owner of Knob Hill Inn and founder and CEO of Columbia Hospitality, said in remarks to the crowd. "We'll do everything we can to be a serious and important part of the community as we get to know Ketchum and Sun Valley more."

Gov. Butch Otter, in town for Capital for a Day, touted the economic development aspect to the project, saying private investment would be a key component of that growth.

"That's a tremendous leap of economic faith," he said of the renovation price tag. "This is the exact kind of thing that we need in Idaho. It's a great story for us to tell."

Sun Valley Mayor Wayne Willich also noted the benefits achieved through individuals' initiatives.

"These private investors are stepping up," he said. "They're saying, 'Hey, we believe in something. Let's go.'"

The remodel was spearheaded by Seattle-based interior design firm Cynthia Mennella Design and Ketchum-based general contractor Carter Ramsay.

"A big focus was the downstairs area," said Amy Wenaweser, Columbia Hospitality communications manager. "We really put a lot of effort into the lobby."

The hotel owners, she said, hope it's a draw for everyone, not just guests.

"The idea was really to create a community gathering place," she said.

The renovation, completed in 10 weeks, also included remodeled guest bathrooms and fixtures, upgraded in-room amenities, and new bedding and linens. In a departure from its Austrian feel, the lobby has a more modern look.

"I like it," said Ketchum resident Wendy Jaquet. "It's more contemporary. If we're going to grow (as a community), we have to have more than gray-haired people here."

A group of investors bought the property at auction this summer with a winning bid of $4,724,500. The boutique inn and grounds had originally been listed for $17 million.

The investment group KHI includes Fred Crosetto, CEO of Ammex Corp. in Kent, Wash.; Eric Bensussen, president and co-founder of BDA, Inc. in Woodinville, Wash.; Robert Cimino, CEO of Plaza Provision Co. in San Juan, Puerto Rico; and John Oppenheimer and his brothers Doug and Skip Oppenheimer.

Columbia Hospitality is managing the hotel, which reopened Dec. 15. Joe Vallance serves as the hotel's general manager. The Grill at Knob Hill is run by Bob and Jolie Dunn.

The reopening of the hotel is a boost to the city's hotel sector, which has been shrinking in recent years with the closure of a handful of lodging properties. Several new hotel projects have been approved by the city but have not been built.

Rebecca Meany:

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