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The Hotel ZaZa Brand Has Inside Track On a
 Hotel Project in Downtown Park City, Utah

By Jay Hamburger, Park Record, Park City, UtahMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News

February 3, 2010 -- A high-ranking official with a well-to-do Texas hotelier acknowledged on Monday his company has an interest in the abandoned Claim Jumper building on Main Street, one of the first signals that the historic structure could indeed reclaim its status among the street's grand buildings.

Hotel ZaZa put up a large sign in a window of the Claim Jumper at about the same time as the start of the Sundance Film Festival, advertising the little-known brand to the crowds in Park City for the festival.

The Hotel ZaZa president who oversees the development and management divisions of the hotelier, Benji Homsey, said in an interview there are prospects for Hotel ZaZa with the Claim Jumper. He indicated, though, an agreement has not been finalized.

"We're definitely looking at it. There's a chance we'll be in Park City. We like Park City a lot," Homsey said, adding that Hotel ZaZa is in the "early stages of analyzing this opportunity."

According to Homsey, one of the people in Hotel ZaZa's ownership also is a figure in MidFirst Bank. The bank was the lender on the Claim Jumper when another firm defaulted on the loan. MidFirst Bank wholly owns the business entity that purchased the building at a trustee's sale in December, putting Hotel ZaZa into a key position if it wants to pursue a development at the Claim Jumper. The building remains for sale as well, and marketing materials had put the asking price at $7,250,000 prior to the trustee's sale.

<>Hotel ZaZa is based in Dallas, and it has hotels in its home city and Houston. Homsey said the company wants to expand. The Dallas hotel has 152 rooms while the Houston property offers 315 rooms. Both are much larger than any lodging property that could open in the Claim Jumper building.

The two Texas hotels have won the Four Diamond Award from AAA. Homsey said room rates at the Texas hotels start at approximately $225 and run to $2,500 per night. The Hotel ZaZa in Dallas "dominates the market," he said.

Homsey said he has not toured the Claim Jumper and he said there is not a timeline for a decision about opening a Hotel ZaZa at the location. Having a property in Park City, though, "would be a brand enhancement for us," he said.

He said if Hotel ZaZa opens in the Claim Jumper building the property would likely offer a restaurant-bar on the Main Street level and residences on the upper floors, perhaps condominiums or a condominium-hotel. It has long been expected that a redeveloped Claim Jumper, 573 Main St., would feature residential space upstairs and commercial square footage on the Main Street level. The building encompasses 19,400 square feet on four stories, according to real estate marketing materials.

Homsey said Hotel ZaZa has the financial wherewithal to pursue a development in the building, saying the hotelier is on "solid ground." The Claim Jumper is gutted, and a developer would need to spend significant money to reopen the building in any manner. City Hall recently allowed some interior demolition work and required the crews to return the fire-sprinkler system to working condition.

If Hotel ZaZa someday opens in the Claim Jumper, it would add another upscale hotelier to Park City's widening lineup of high-end properties. In the last decade, top-shelf names like St. Regis, Montage and the Dakota Mountain Lodge, which is part of the Waldorf Astoria family, have opened or broken ground.

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To see more of the Park Record, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.parkrecord.com.

Copyright (c) 2010, Park Record, Park City, Utah

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