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Foss Hotel project moving toward groundbreaking

Post by John Gillie / The News Tribune on July 16, 2012 at 4:06 pm |
July 16, 2012 4:17 pm

A long-delayed hotel planned for the west side of downtown Tacoma’s Thea Foss Waterway is moving rapidly toward groundbreaking, the hotel’s architect said today.

The 104-room Marriott Residence Inn hotel could be opening its doors next year if no more legal obstacles prevent its construction.

Seattle architect Dave Murphy said the hotel plans have been submitted to the city of Tacoma for issuance of a building permit, and the hotel’s owners have sought proposals from contractors who want to win the construction job. Four have responded.

“The Hollanders want this building to move forward,” said Murphy. Hollander Investments of Bellingham owns the hotel site between the Esplanade condominiums and Thea’s Landing residences on Dock Street.

The hotel’s ground-breaking had been stymied until last month by legal appeals from the owner of a rival downtown Tacoma hotel, the Hotel Murano.

The Washington State Supreme Court last month declined to hear an appeal of an appelate court ruling upholding the hotel’s shoreline permit. The rival hotel owners had kept the Foss hotel project in suspended animation for 2 1/2 years while they appealed the issuance of a 2009 shoreline permit modification allowing construction to begin.

The Murano’s attorney last month said it planned no further appeals of the Foss Hotel’s shoreline permit, but Murphy said he’s heard unconfirmed reports that the Murano may appeal the building permit when it is issued.

Kate Buska, spokeswoman for the Murano, said the hotel had no comment on the report it would again challenge the hotel’s proposed construction.

Besides the courtroom battles, the hotel has faced multiple political and financial roadblocks since the Thea Foss Development Authority first sought developers to build the structure a decade ago.

The Murano and a hotel workers union had lobbied the Tacoma City Council to delay issuing an environmental document needed to build the hotel more than three years ago.

The Murano’s owners say Hollander failed to live up to an agreement with the city to staff its Marriott hotel downtown with union workers when he built the Courtyard across from the Greater Tacoma Convention & Trade Center. Hollander said workers didn’t want to unionize. The Murano is a union-staffed hotel.

The Murano also has complained that the 104-room Marriott Residence Inn planned for the waterway wasn’t the kind of upscale hotel the waterway authority had originally sought for the site.

Hollander said then that the Residence Inn has passed architectural muster from the waterway authority. As an extended stay hotel, the Residence Inn will fill a niche in the Tacoma market. It won’t compete with the higher-end Murano, he said.

And the project saw multiple developer proposals and half a dozen design changes before Hollander bought the hotel site.

Hollander is the fourth developer to propose a project on the site on the west side of the waterway between the Esplanade and Thea’s Landing condominiums south of South 15th Street.

Two developers originally proposed a project for the site. The waterway authority picked a developer from California. A hotel developer associated with that bid dropped out within months of the authority’s decision.

He was replaced by a Seattle hotelier who spent years trying to develop a plan that banks would finance. When the recession hit, that developer sold the site to Hollander, owner of a string of Northwest hotels, including downtown’s Courtyard by Marriott and three hotels in Puyallup.

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