April 12, 2009 in Idaho Voices

Plan in works for Rathdrum’s first motel

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Rathdrum is finally getting what mayors, economic development groups, and chamber of commerce folks have been saying we needed for decades: a motel.

Rathdrum businessman Kevin Randles recently announced his intention to build a 28-unit motel on a strip of land along Highway 53, adjacent to his other businesses.

“I’ve been wanting to do this for a long time,” said Rathdrum’s most prolific entrepreneur.

Since he came to town over a decade ago, Randles has built quite a little business empire on one of the busiest corners in Rathdrum. He has already squeezed Dashco, a gas station and convenience store; a car wash; a laundromat; a video store; a car lot; and a myriad of secondary businesses into a two-block-long stretch bordering the highway. The motel announcement comes just a couple of months before his current project, a new liquor store, nears completion.

Randles is hoping the community will support this project, which appears to be Rathdrum’s first motel, according to a few old-timers. Local architect Paul Matthews, who designed both the A&J Automotive building and the Palidash Building on Main Street, has been hired to design the building. General contractor for the 2  1/2-story project will be local contractor Charlie Cramer of Storm King Construction.

The project has already won the support of Matthews, former president of the Rathdrum Area Chamber of Commerce. “For years a motel has been the number one project we would like to see being built in the city,” he said. “Lack of one has been the glaring deficiency in the services we offer as a city.” Matthews says he is “pleased that Kevin is investigating building a motel,” and indicated he thought the location was “appropriate.”

Randles has seen that need Matthews spoke of firsthand. “I’m building it because we need it,” he said. “I’ve been here 14 years, and I believe this community needed a motel the entire time, and would have supported a motel the entire time.”

Randles says many of the truckers passing through town tell him they would stop if accommodations were available. Cramer believes a motel would give sports enthusiasts a place to stay when large sporting events are held at Lakeland High School.

Businessmen know a motel in Rathdrum would mean the chamber could quit referring business away from Rathdrum when fielding calls about local motels; and that accommodations for some of the overflow of Silverwood guests during the summer months could be found in Rathdrum, which would mean additional revenue for the local economy.

The location is perfect, according to Randles. “It’s on the highway, the infrastructure is already in place, and it’s close to a pedestrian trail.” Visitors staying at the motel would be within easy walking distance to Main Street, a grocery store and several great places to eat.

The motel, which is being designed to coordinate with the “old-type Western look” similar to the liquor store under construction, “will be a step-up from a Motel 6,” according to Randles. The rooms will feature Wi-Fi, flat-screen televisions and comparable pricing; while the exterior will feature cedar siding, posts and rails, reminiscent of a 1900s-era building.

Randles says the building “will have a very low impact on neighboring properties and will generate little traffic.” It is being designed so no doors, windows or parking are on the rear side, alleviating disruption to neighbors.

Although Rathdrum has had its share of hotels throughout its 100-year history, the last one burned in the 1970s, and as far as several longtime residents remember, the city has never had a motel. Edgar Bradbury remembers folks who stopped in Rathdrum looking for accommodations were “just told to keep going.” They were told they could find a place to stay just 13 miles south in Coeur d’Alene, or 30 miles east in Spokane. “Most,” he said, “didn’t mind continuing on, knowing they were so close.”

Randles hopes to put an end to the loss of that economic revenue for Rathdrum, and is gearing up to start on the motel right away. “We have lots of hoops to go through on the local level, but with support we can make this project work for the community.”

Contact correspondent Mary Jane Honegger by e-mail at Honegger2@verizon.net. Previous columns are available online at spokesman.com/columnists.

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