|By Joel Mills, Lewiston Tribune,
IdahoMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
April 27, 2012--PULLMAN -- After years of unsuccessful efforts to develop an on-campus hotel, Washington State University announced Thursday a pact with a Colorado company to build and operate a Marriott Residence Inn next to the school's golf course.
The 99-year-lease agreement with Stonebridge Companies of Englewood, Colo., will bring a 127-room hotel to three acres of a 7.5-acre site WSU previously designated for hospitality development. Preliminary planning has started, and the hotel should open by fall 2013, according to the university.
The site is near the WSU student recreation center, and adjacent to the Palouse Ridge golf course on the eastern edge of campus.
The developer will lease the land from WSU under an escalating schedule of lease payments that will amount to $50,000 per year by the sixth year of the term, said WSU Executive Director for Real Estate and Local Relations Mel Taylor. The agreement also allows the company to acquire and further develop the remainder of the site during the first 10 years of the lease.
Taylor said Stonebridge's successful bid for the project emerged out of 127 responses to the university's request for proposals. The new agreement marks the fourth attempt for WSU to enter into a partnership to build a hotel.
WSU first tried to develop the property when it struck a deal with Pullman builder Duane Brelsford in 2007. That agreement was for a $20 million, 120-room hotel with a 20,000-square-foot conference center, and it advanced to the point where an architect and general contractor were hired.
But the economic recession hit soon after Brelsford and WSU made the agreement, and the plan was scuttled. Another group won the contract in 2009, but couldn't secure financing. The same group regained the contract after a third request for proposals, Taylor said, but the partnership again dissolved.
"People came in every time with great hotels, but they couldn't get equity financing," he said. "The great thing about Stonebridge is they came in with great financing credentials, and they could also back it up with their own equity investment. And they are owner-operators, and that's what's going to make it work this time."
He said the university also learned from its past mistake of trying to dictate how much convention and meeting space the hotel would have. The new agreement satisfies the primary goal of getting a hotel built, Taylor said, and gives Stonebridge the flexibility to expand if it is economically feasible.
Taylor said in addition to the on-campus meeting space, WSU needs the hotel to house the frequent visiting scholars and other employees who don't permanently reside in Pullman.
"They'll stay a month, three months, sometimes six months or longer," he said, noting that the Marriott Residence Inn format lends itself to that kind of guest. "There's just a lack of that kind of availability in Pullman."
The hotel will also complement the golf course by catering to people like alumni who want to stay in town for a few days around an athletic event, Taylor said. And the hotel will be an ideal training ground for students in WSU's popular hotel and hospitality management program.
"It just works in many ways," he said.
Mills may be contacted at email@example.com or (208) 883-0564.
(c)2012 the Lewiston Tribune (Lewiston, Idaho)
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