A Bellingham hotel developer today formally unveiled a plan to build two hotels and an office building on a near-downtown Tacoma waterfront site.
Hollander Investments’ hotel construction plan could fulfill the Foss Waterway Development Authority’s long-held desire to bring guest lodging to the waterway.
The authority has struggled unsuccessfully for five years with two developers to get a hotel built on the formerly industrial inlet of Commencement Bay.
But while Hollander appears to have better access to money than prior developers and ample prior hotel construction and operational experience, much remains to be done before ground-breaking can happen. Hollander Investments built and operates downtown’s Courtyard by Marriott and two other hotels, both in Puyallup, in Pierce County.
Among the jobs that must be done are:
n Further development of specific plans for the three buildings.
n Approval of those designs by the authority’s design committee.
n Creation of revised development agreement satisfactory to both the authority and Hollander
n Sale of the property to Hollander by its present owner, Robert Thurston of Seattle. Thurston spent four years trying to develop hotel plans he could get financed. In the end, he failed.
The authority board Tuesday voted unanimously to begin the hard work of revising the existing development plan and set its Aug. 19 meeting to approve that plan.
Hollander, armed with that revised document, hopes to buy the property from Thurston by Sept. 1.
If he doesn’t have to seek new shoreline permits for the project, construction of the first hotel could be begin by January, he told the Foss board.
Under Hollander’s preliminary plan, the buildings would be constructed in phases, with one hotel being built first. The unbuilt half of the site would serve as a staging area for construction of the first nine-story hotel building. The hotel site is between the Esplanade condominiums and Thea’s Landing on Dock Street.
The second hotel would follow with the office structure being built last. Together, the three structures would form a u-shaped building with the open end of the u facing the waterway. Collectively, the three buildings would contain nearly 260,000 square feet of space. The two hotels would have about 250 rooms together.
Moving ahead on the second hotel and office building will likely depend on the health of the economy both nationally and locally, he said. The decision by Tacoma’s Russell Investments whether to stay in Tacoma or move to Seattle could play a large role in that decision, he said. Russell is expected to make that decision this fall.
Hollander’s initial plans call for one hotel becoming a Hilton, either a Garden Inn or the more modest Hampton Inn. The second would be a Marriott extended stay facility. The developer told the board he’s unsure which will come first. The answer will depend on what best fits the mix of hotel room existing or planned in Tacoma.
The hotelier’s plans for mid-range properties drew a caution from former Foss board member Frank Jacobs, himself a former developer and former head of the authority’s design review committee.
Jacobs reminded authority board members that the authority had envisioned a boutique hotel on the property, an smaller upscale establishment that would make best use of the rare waterfront site.
The authority shouldn’t rush in drawing up a new development agreement because it could regret its hasty decisions for up to 100 years, he said.
"We already made some mistakes once," he said referring of the initial developer. "Let’s get it right this time."