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For the week of September 10 - 16, 2003

News

The proposed Bald Mountain Hotel would be a major presence at the southern end of Ketchum’s Main Street. The clock tower at center-right was eliminated from the final plan.

Bald Mountain Hotel may be unfeasible


By GREG MOORE
Express Staff Writer

Despite last week’s approval by the Ketchum City Council, the proposed Bald Mountain Hotel on Main Street may never be built.

Property owner Brian Barsotti said higher-than-expected construction estimates, combined with the extended application process, may make the project financially unfeasible.

"Right now our backs are against the wall," he said in an interview last week. "We’re kind of running here to try to cover everything."

The council’s approval culminated an application process that spanned 15 meetings. Barsotti said that process took three times longer than he had anticipated, tripling his costs to several hundred thousand dollars through redesigns and traffic studies. He said he has also had to carry financing on the property during that period.

The original proposal had provoked controversy due to its 59-foot height and its mass—deemed by many to be overwhelming in downtown Ketchum. The design approved by the city council last week was of a three-story building, 47 feet tall and containing 80 rooms.

However, Barsotti said, construction estimates appear to indicate the project would need as many as 120 rooms to be profitable.

He said he has not given up hope, though, and will spend the next two months creating a financing package and searching for out-of-town investors for the approximately $25 million project. If he succeeds in arranging financing, he said, construction will begin in the spring.

He said if the project proves unfeasible, he would probably subdivide the property and sell the lots.

"Why undertake the risk," he asked, "when you get so little help from the city, and you could just turn around and sell it?"

Project supporters have pointed to its impact in shoring up the declining number of hotel rooms in Ketchum and Sun Valley. With the closure of the 132-room Elkhorn Hotel last fall, the area lost 243 hotel rooms between 1999 and 2003. Unless that trend is reversed, many business owners fear, the area’s tourism-based economy will suffer.

Mayor Ed Simon said he hopes Barsotti can find financing for the project.

"I think a lot of people have jumped through a lot of hoops," he said. "If it doesn’t come forth, I think it will be to all of our loss.

"But at the same time, I think we have sent a message that we will consider legitimate incentives to build hotels."

 

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The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.