|By Erica Curless, The Spokesman-Review, Spokane, Wash.|
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Oct. 22. 2004 - Duane Hagadone wants to expand the Coeur d'Alene Resort by building another tower between First and Second streets while closing two blocks of Sherman Avenue, turning it into a world-renowned botanical garden.
Gasps and a few snorts were heard Thursday evening when Hagadone told about 100 local business people gathered at the Resort of his admittedly "surprising" plan to ask the city to abandon two blocks of its busiest downtown street. Sherman Avenue would be closed from Lakeside Avenue to Second Street. Hagadone also wants to close a block of First Street between Sherman and Lakeside.
The new tower, with perhaps 12 stories and as many as 175 rooms, would be built on the corner of Sherman and Second, right next to Hagadone's newly opened Bonsai Bistro. Hagadone, who already owns the property, would raze the Johnston building, which is home to several small businesses.
"I never take on easy projects," Hagadone said with a laugh during the rare public appearance that he organized at the last minute to dispel rumors. "Just two blocks, that's all."
And if the Coeur d'Alene City Council rejects the idea, Hagadone said he has an option to buy property in downtown Spokane near the Convention Center expansion.
Hagadone, 72, said that he isn't pitting the two cities against each other and that Coeur d'Alene is his first choice. But if people decide it's not right for the town, he will build a hotel tower in Spokane.
Saying he doesn't want to lose his option on the Spokane property, Hagadone wants Coeur d'Alene to act quickly on the request that he plans to deliver to City Hall next week.
He invited the public to speak up if they can think of any reason why closing two blocks of Sherman and the resort expansion wouldn't work, saying he doesn't want to do "anything to hurt downtown."
Hagadone spent the day meeting individually with each of the City Council members, the mayor and other community leaders. None of the city officials wanted to comment on Hagadone's proposal until he made the formal announcement.
"He's just throwing out the idea to see how it floats," Councilman Ben Wolfinger said.
Spokane developers said they would love to have the multimillionaire's business.
"Spokane would love to have Duane Hagadone here," downtown Spokane developer Rob Brewster said. "I assure him the city would open its arms."
But the city already has too many downtown hotel rooms, said Kevin Twohig, executive director of the Spokane Public Facilities District, who wasn't previously aware of Hagadone's Spokane option.
The district is in charge of the Convention Center expansion.
During the hourlong presentation, Hagadone said he couldn't think of any reason Coeur d'Alene would reject the idea, other than "the anti-Hagadone people and the Spokane paper," who he said dislike anything he proposes.
"I can see the headlines now: 'Hagadone the land grabber. He wants Sherman Avenue. Next year he will want the lake,'" said Hagadone, who owns the Coeur d'Alene Press.
The audience clapped after Hagadone finished, and nobody had anything but praise during the comment period. One downtown merchant said he "admired" Hagadone's thinking. Others said that the Coeur d'Alene Resort and Golf Course has helped boost the area's image.
Barry Rosenberg, of the Kootenai Environmental Alliance, declined to comment, saying he needs to think more about the proposal.
Brad Jordan, a local real estate agent and Coeur d'Alene Planning Commission member, asked if the expansion included additional convention space.
Hagadone said he would research it as the design for the new tower is completed. There are not yet specific design plans for the tower, Hagadone said, because there was too much expense involved.
Hagadone also is planning to do a major overhaul of the current resort during the next 18 months. Beverly's, the resort restaurant, will close in January for a $1.3 overhaul that Hagadone predicted will make it the No. 1 restaurant in the Inland Northwest. The resort also plans to remodel the north-wing rooms and in November 2005 will rebuild the Lake Tower and remodel the lobby and other public areas.
One of the main focuses is upgrading the spa, which Hagadone said is inadequate compared to Pebble Beach and other renowned spa destinations. But to do the multimillion-dollar spa Hagadone envisions, he said he needs the additional rooms that the new tower would provide.
Hagadone admitted he thought it was an impossible idea when the consultants hired to help with the company's long-range planning suggested closing Sherman Avenue. They said forcing hotel guests to cross the busy downtown street would kill the project.
"Yeah, close Sherman. Gee. Right. I've been through a hell of a lot of battles in town but I don't think I need this one," Hagadone said he told the consultants.
But after seeing the traffic studies, done by Coeur d'Alene engineering firm JUB, Hagadone said he thinks closing the two blocks of Sherman will actually help downtown businesses. He said the reports show that rerouting traffic onto Lakeside Avenue would open up Sherman, which is too clogged and congested.
Hagadone said the botanical gardens, a tribute to his parents, would replace the pavement on Sherman Avenue and attract hundreds of thousands of people each year, perhaps becoming more of a destination than Lake Coeur d'Alene. He envisions heated walkways that meander through rare varieties of flowers, linking the two hotels. The Centennial Trail also would go through the gardens.
Hagadone estimates the hotel expansion would bring 88,000 new guests to downtown Coeur d'Alene and add at least 130 jobs.
Hagadone had no dollar amount for the project but said his gut tells him about $20 million. He noted that would boost Coeur d'Alene's tax base and help the town hire more police officers and firefighters.
And the public could enjoy the beauty and prosperity of the hotel and gardens without having to pay a cent, he said.
"We don't want to own Sherman," Hagadone said. "We don't want to build on Sherman. We want traffic off Sherman. All we want to do is turn it into flowers."
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