The Coeur d’Alene Resort will move ahead with the design for a second hotel tower following a Tuesday vote by the Coeur d’Alene City Council to vacate two downtown streets.
The council voted 5-1 for the street vacations, which Hagadone Hospitality officials said are needed for the construction of a narrow, 19-story tower rising above Front Avenue and extending over a portion of Hagadone’s Resort Plaza Shops. All of the rooms in the new tower will face west.
Councilwoman Amy Evans cast the dissenting vote, saying she didn’t have enough information about how the tower will affect downtown, including the views and the shadows cast by the building.
“I would like more information on the impact on views and vistas,” she told other council members. “We know the community values those.”
Councilman Dan Gookin said the city codes already allow downtown towers up to 220 feet in height. Two other council members, Ron Edinger and Steve Adams, noted the portion of Front Avenue being vacated already is closed to vehicle traffic, with the exception of resort deliveries. Second Street functions as an exit for resort visitors.
John Barlow, a consultant for Hagadone Hospitality, said the tower will add about 200 hotel rooms and allow the resort to go after new convention business. The Coeur d’Alene Resort opened in 1986 with 340 rooms. Many meeting planners won’t book locations with less than 500 hotel rooms, Barlow told the council.
Resort officials identified the need for a second tower about a decade ago, but plans were shelved during the recession, Barlow said. Now the market is ready for that type of expansion, Barlow said.
“The need is real. We have the names of the associations that want to come if we can provide the rooms,” he said. “We really believe this will help our winter business.”
The expansion also would add about 10,000 square feet of convention space – some in the lower floors of the tower and some through reconfiguring existing space in the resort. The parking garage will get another 110 spaces with an additional floor.
The additional hotel rooms will generate about 94,000 additional “guest nights” at the resort each year, with an annual impact of about $42 million to the community, according to an economic consultant hired by Hagadone Hospitality.
The next step in the process is for the company to apply for a building permit, which will trigger a building design review by the city. About 40 people showed up for a hearing on the street vacation. Representatives from the real estate community, the Coeur d’Alene Chamber of Commerce and the Coeur d’Alene Downtown Association spoke in favor.
“We need more winter stuff,” said Doug Johnson, who owns Fire, a wood-fired pizza restaurant downtown. “This is a real opportunity to bring business to downtown Coeur d’Alene during the winter.” That’s when downtown needs more tourists, he said.
How the hotel tower would affect bike and pedestrian access was a topic of great interest. The tower will go over the top of the Centennial Trail, in the location where a pedestrian bridge connects the resort and the Resort Plaza Shops. The area beneath the bridge will remain open for cyclists and pedestrians, Barlow said.
The city will negotiate a contract with Hagadone Hospitality to ensure future access, City Council members said.
Some speakers urged the council to turn down the street vacation.
“Do not give away public property in this case,” said Mike Teague, a Coeur d’Alene resident. “It’s time for Coeur d’Alene taxpayers to stop helping fund Hagadone projects.”
Local resident Bev Moss came to talk about Centennial Trail access, but also encouraged the council to consider the skyscape.
“There is an aesthetic impact we can’t afford to ignore,” she said. “We are going to lose a little blue sky.”
The Coeur d’Alene Resort’s current tower is 216-foot tall, with 18 floors. The city later adopted height limits for downtown buildings, with a maximum possible height of 220 feet, or about 19 stories.
Developers have to incorporate public features to get the maximum height, such as street-level retail shops, day cares, public art or affordable housing for people who work downtown.
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