Fate for a Long-Awaited Downtown Escondido Hotel Cloudy
J. Harry Jones | The San Diego Union-Tribune | April 21, 2017 1:00am
April 21--Plans for a long-awaited hotel in downtown Escondido may be in jeopardy, with the developer and city officials apparently having differing visions for the project.
The proposed Courtyard by Marriott is one of four hotel proposals moving through the city's planning pipeline, though only one -- a Springhill Suites -- appears close to getting built. That project should begin construction within a few months near I-15 and W. Valley Parkway, and will be the city's first full-service hotel, officials said.
The other two planned hotels -- one pitched by Stone Brewing, and a 140-room hotel project planned for Felicita Road -- appear to be on hold.
City officials said the downtown Courtyard proposal could come to a head as early as next week during a closed-session negotiation on April 26.
Developer C.W. Clark Inc. wants to build the hotel in what's now a parking lot between City Hall and the performing arts center near the corner of Broadway and West Valley Parkway.
Company President Craig Clark initially proposed building a 154-room, four-story hotel at the site, and for the past several months has been negotiating with the City Council on the plan. So far no agreement has been reached, and some city officials said it's looking increasingly unlikely.
Clark could not be reached for comment this week.
When the two sides meet again next week, the project could be quashed, said Mayor Sam Abed.A decade ago the city envisioned a luxury hotel to be built on the downtown site, but those plans fell apart for several reasons, including the loss of redevelopment money.
"The last proposal was a scaled down version of a Marriott and we didn't feel that was upscale enough, architecturally-wise and quality wise," Abed said Tuesday.
Clark recently submitted revised plans for a nicer hotel, but whether the City Council will go for it is in question.
"I think because of the long time it's taking it's very critical that we have the right hotel between the (performing arts center) and the City of Escondido," Abed said. "I think everybody on the council shares the same vision for a quality hotel in downtown. Whether this revised application meets the council expectations, we'll see Wednesday."
Meanwhile, a Marriott Springhill Suites -- to be built on La Terraza Drive next to the 24-Hour Fitness Center just east of Interstate 15 and south of W. Valley Parkway -- is scheduled to break ground this summer. Grading has already begun at the property.
The four-story, 105-suite hotel will total roughly 73,000 square feet and will include a small conference room and a large lobby for serving continental breakfast.
"They've gone in for a slight redesign to upgrade to the latest Marriott standards," said attorney David Ferguson who represents the developer, the Excel Hotel Group. "The schedule is to start construction in July with a grand opening in September 2018."
As an incentive to get the hotel built, the city agreed to give Excel 50 percent of the transient occupancy tax revenues generated by room rentals at the hotel until reaching the sum of $1.8 million.
Nearly 30 years ago the city first approved zoning for a hotel at the site but early development plans never came to fruition. Ten years ago a new owner and a hotel group took over the property and were given a $1.6 million incentive, but the Great Recession ended all building plans.
Exel, an ownership group that operates 18 hotels and is currently constructing three other Marriotts, came into the picture just late last year.
A couple miles to the south, a proposal for a third hotel made two years ago has meanwhile stalled due to environmental concerns.
Although initial paperwork was submitted to the city to begin the development process for a 140-unit hotel to be built at the southeast corner of Felicita Road and Gamble Lane near Interstate 15, no plans have yet been submitted.
The hotel, and possibly other commercial/residential components of the project, would be located across Felicita from the LDS Church.
"It has a creek with a bunch of Eucalyptus in it that runs right through the property. There have been several meetings with the applicant and also with some of the wildlife agencies because of the creek," Escondido's Director of Community Development Bill Martin said.
The original plans had the entire creek area being developed, but after the meetings the developer, Felicita Development, LLC, realized the cost of mitigating such a project would be too costly, Martin said.
The project design is being reevaluated. The city has heard or seen nothing from the developer in quite some time.
Finally, plans that Stone Brewing announced last year to build a hotel across the street from its brewery and restaurant on Citricado Parkway appear to be on hold.
Although a Stone representative could not be reached for comment, Escondido Mayor Sam Abed said he believes Stone is still committed to building a 99-room boutique hotel on 13-acres across from its brewery, but has delayed the project.
Stone originally predicted the hotel would be built by early next year, but Martin said no plans have been submitted making such a likelihood impossible.
"Stone is committed to doubling its brewing capacity and doing the hotel, but I think they are waiting to complete their European ventures and then come back here and do that," Abed said. "They are still committed, but I think its just been put on hold for a little bit."
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