A $45-million, 238-room hotel now under construction in Des Moines, might have been built in Tacoma if it weren’t for a chance meeting between Des Moines’ mayor and the hotel’s chief investor.
At least that’s the account from Des Moines Mayor Robert Sheckler who this week officiated at a ground-breaking ceremony for the 7-story Artemis Hotel on Pacific Highway South.
The hotel, which will feature nine two-story penthouse-style suites with a view of the Olympics, is expected to open in mid-2013. The hotel was designed by Tacoma’s Belay Architecture.
When the hotel opens it will feature a high-end Chinese restaurant and second restaurant serving yet-undetermined cuisine. The hotel site is about three miles south of Sea-Tac Airport on the east side of Pacific Highway.
The Art Deco-style luxury hotel is being built by Chinese investors led by self-made entrepreneur Yang Chun.
Sheckler said he met Chun on a trade mission to China two years ago. The two men developed a cordial relationship, and Chun invited him to a late-night karaoke session at the bar of a hotel he owns in Shanghai.
During that social meeting, Chun mentioned that he owned property both in Des Moines and Tacoma, and he was thinking of building a hotel in Tacoma, the mayor said. Sheckler said he promoted the advantages of building in Des Moines.
“I think it was important that he knew me personally,” said the mayor. “Personal relationships are critical in China.”
Chun followed up his interest in Des Moines with action, taking steps to move ahead with the project at 22406 Pacific Highway S. soon after their meeting, the mayor said.
Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland said she and a team of Tacoma economic development officials made a presentation to Chun on a recent trip to China. Strickland, however, said she had no knowledge that the Des Moines hotel might once have been destined for the City of Destiny.
“I don’t know that he owns any land here,” she said.
Chun himself has bought a home in Medina and apparently plans more investments in the Puget Sound area, said Des Moines officials.
Strickland said the City of Tacoma is still talking with him and his investors about making investments in Tacoma.
Neither Chun nor his personal representative was available for comment?