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Foss Hotel question delayed again

Post by John Gillie / The News Tribune on Sep. 29, 2009 at 4:42 pm with No Comments »
September 29, 2009 4:42 pm

The Tacoma City Council wants more time to consider whether it gives approval to an agreement that would allow construction of a new hotel on downtown Tacoma’s Thea Foss Waterway.

Council member Spiro Manthou told fellow council members at a study session at noon today that several legal questions require further study.

The council delayed consideration of an environmental indemnification agreement for the hotel two weeks ago after council member Connie Ladenburg said she wanted more information on the hotel proposal. The measure had been due to hit the council agenda tonight.

The indemnification agreement would define the city’s and the developer’s responsibilities should unforseen environmental issues emerge during construction and later.

But the council’s delay has not been so much over environmental concerns as it has been over the quality of the hotel design, union issues and the developer’s track record in supporting the Tacoma convention business.

Hollander Investments of Bellingham is proposing to build two hotels and an office building on the site just north of the Thea’s Landing condo project on the east side of the Waterway on Dock Street.

One, hotel, a Marriott Residence Inn, would be erected first with the second hotel and office structure to follow within a few years.

Manthou said the council’s approval of the environmental indemnification agreement may not be necessary. The site’s present owner, Seattle hotelier Robert Thurston, may be able to transfer the existing agreement to Hollander as part of the sale.

But city lawyers say the city may wish to modify the agreement to deal with the possibility of subsequent division of the property and sale to different owners.

Don Meyer, the Foss Waterway Authority director, told the council that he shared their desire to have a hotel built on the waterway that Tacomans could point to with pride.

Ladenburg has said she doesn’t want a freeway-style hotel built on the waterfront property.

Meyer assured council members that the authority wouldn’t allow a cookie-cutter hotel to be built on the site.

Hollander’s existing downtown hotel, a Marriott Courtyard Hotel near the Tacoma Convention Center, has been criticized for looking too much like a suburban hotel.

“We don’t expect to see what we have on Pacific Avenue on the waterway from this group,” Meyer assured the council. The existing Marriott is on Pacific Avenue.

Both Hollander and the waterway authority have told council members they must act quickly because the hotel’s shoreline permits will expire in March unless construction is started by then.

The authority has spent the last five years holding the hands of two developers who were unable to get a hotel built on the site.

Meyer said after the meeting that Hollander is one of the rare developers who has the financial muscle to get a hotel built during lean economic times like now.

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