|By Jeff McDonald, The Bulletin, Bend,
Ore.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Mar. 25, 2009 - Despite concerns about opening in a tough economic climate, Bend's new upscale hotel is on schedule to open downtown by late August or early September.
The Oxford Hotel will be unlike anything that has been built by the Bend-based Oxford Hotel Group, General Manager Ben Perle said during a tour of the facility last week to update members of the tourism industry on progress of the 59-room hotel.
The Oxford Hotel Group is a division of Baney Corp., which is owned and operated by Bend-based Curt Baney and family.
This will be the first four-star hotel offering full service, including valet parking, room service and catered group meeting space, Perle said.
The company's 16 other hotels comprise two- and three-star inns and suites in four states, he said.
"It has to do with the (small) size and originality," Perle said of the boutique label placed on the hotel. "This hotel will be smaller than our others and original in decor." Some of the hotel's features include a seventh-floor workout room overlooking Minnesota Avenue, rooms ranging in size from 400 square feet to 800 square feet with views of the Cascades and downtown, and a 2,300-square-foot lower-level ballroom, which will be used for meetings and conferences, Perle said. The workout room will include a Jacuzzi, sauna and a steam room, he said.
Inside, an exposed elevator shaft, bare floors and exposed metal studs are visible. All of the wiring, plumbing and electrical outlets have been installed, however, and construction crews are close to installing Sheetrock, Perle said.
The hotel, financed entirely by Baney Corp., is costing an estimated $12 million to build, according to previous reports in The Bulletin.
The High Desert Gallery of Central Oregon, which currently has locations in Sisters and Redmond, has signed a lease to occupy ground-floor retail space in the hotel. A full-service bar and restaurant also is planned on the lower level, Perle said.
The hotel will open following a period when the city's room-tax collections have fallen at double-digit levels each of the last three months.
In January, the last month for which room taxes were reported, the city reported a 20.1 percent year-over-year drop in room-tax collections, the third consecutive month of double-digit declines. Room taxes are considered the most reliable indicator of the health of the tourism industry.
While acknowledging it will be difficult to open in the current economic climate, Perle said the company will offer a product that has not been tried in downtown Bend before. Room rates will average between $150 and $200 per night, Perle said.
"We feel we're filling a niche that doesn't exist in downtown Bend or Bend proper," he said. "Our small size should help us weather the storm.
It is hard to know the answer to that (economic) question six months out." The hotel will start pre-booking this summer on its Web site, www.oxfordhotelbend.com , Perle said.
At least one other hotel manager did not think the new hotel would take away business. It should bring more people to Bend, said Tom Penn, general manager of the Phoenix Inn & Suites, located across Lava Road from The Oxford Hotel.
The Phoenix Inn's rates start at $129, and the hotel's occupancy was down 7 percent from Jan. 1 through Tuesday, Penn said. Year-to-date revenues, however, are up 9 percent. Last year, the hotel had to contend with remodeling and construction issues, he said.
"I think that given this economy all of us have slowed down a bit, but the (Oxford Hotel) is going to serve a specific clientele looking for the boutique atmosphere," Penn said. "I think (travelers) will pay the rates they are asking, but given the size of the hotel, I don't think it's going to damage any of our business." The Oxford Hotel will attract new visitors to Bend who are seeking a different hotel experience, said Doug La Placa, president and CEO of Visit Bend, which promotes tourism for the city.
"There will be a mix of leisure and business travelers looking for more sophisticated lodging downtown," La Placa said. "Additionally, the hotel's meeting space should be attractive for social group functions, weddings and family reunions." "I was very impressed," La Placa said after his tour of the hotel last week. "The hotel will fill a niche within the lodging industry that is going to be in very high demand."
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