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City board questions features of new Coeur d’Alene Resort tower

A proposed new hotel wing at the Coeur d’Alene Resort would blend in better with the existing hotel and convention center if the flat roofline had more variation, members of the city’s design review commission said Thursday.

“To me this is just a flat, flat box,” commission member Jef Lemmon said in a hearing with Hagadone Hospitality Corp.’s architect and development consultant.

Lemmon, a Coeur d’Alene architect, said he also has reservations about the relatively smooth surface of the tower’s west side, where guest rooms would face Lake Coeur d’Alene and Independence Point.

“What’s bothering me is that wall. It feels like a wall as you’re coming into Coeur d’Alene,” he said.

The 12-story building would be 40 feet wide and 260 feet long, extending from Sherman Avenue to the resort’s parking garage. A new skybridge over Front Avenue would connect guests to the resort’s lobby, and the resort would end up with 500 hotel rooms in all.

Others on the city commission also pointed to the differing tower heights and varied roofline of the existing resort, asking why the design for the addition doesn’t imitate those features.

“This one looks like you’ve stacked on three Motel 6s,” said George Ives, chairman of the commission.

Commission member Mike Dodge said drawings of the new tower make it look unrelated to the lakefront resort.

“It looks like a tourist warehouse, to be honest,” Dodge said.

John Barlow, the project’s development manager, defended the design. “We think it ties together just fine,” he said.

Barlow also said the construction budget prevents major changes to the design, as some commission members suggested.

“If you handed me $100 million I could do a lot of things …. We think this is a really nice-looking building,” he said.

Several Coeur d’Alene residents who spoke at Thursday’s hearing weren’t so sure.

“It looks like a hotel in Las Vegas,” Teavo Orjala said.

Orjala said he grew up in the Lake City and is no fan of the “sterile” look of Hagadone’s downtown architecture. Resort co-founder Duane Hagadone has the money to make the addition a beautiful building, he said.

Jada Endicott said the proposed tower, which would rise over the west end of the Resort Plaza Shops just north of the existing hotel, stands apart from the rest of the resort. The addition would become the focal point of the west entrance to downtown, not the taller, 338-room hotel that opened nearly 30 years ago.

Barlow pointed to design features he said do mimic the existing resort, including “copper eyebrows over windows” of guest rooms and the metal canopy top.

He also said guests staying in the addition will not feel they are separated from the existing resort spaces. “The whole design goal is to feel like it’s one experience.”

The first floor would be retail and the second floor would have convention space. Guest rooms would start on the third story.

The east side of the tower would be hallways plus elevator shafts and stairwells. On the north end, the building would step back from Sherman Avenue at heights of 45 and 75 feet so it doesn’t loom over downtown’s main street.

“I’m a big fan of the way this steps back,” commission member Jon Ingalls said. “I think that’s a really huge deal.”

Thursday’s hearing was the second in the design review process, and the commission voted unanimously to hold a third meeting on the project. That will be scheduled for early next year.

The commission can deny the proposal, approve it, or approve it with conditions.

Hagadone plans to start construction on the addition next October. Barlow said the developers respect the input from the design review commission, but some of the suggested changes he heard Thursday aren’t feasible.

“When we get a building which gets too complex in this economy, it won’t work,” he said. “If it doesn’t work, then we pack up and go home.”


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