When Caroline Curtis and Vickie Molzer unlocked the front doors of the Holiday Inn Express Downtown Tacoma Thursday afternoon, that simple, unceremonious event marked the informal end of seven years of planning, negotiation and construction that brought Tacoma its newest major hotel.
First conceived in 2006, the hotel developed by Seattle-based Hotel Concepts, slogged its way through numerous city design reviews, architectural modifications and the sluggish economy to finally become reality at 1 p.m. Thursday.
Curtis, operations manager for hotel operator BMI Hospitality and Molzer, the hotel’s first general manager, did the honors, and the hotel received its first guests.
The eight-story, 163-room hotel at South 21st and C streets near the University of Washington Tacoma is the first major new hotel to open in Tacoma since the Marriott Courtyard Tacoma unlocked its doors in 2005.
The Holiday Inn, clad with red brick for seven of its eight stories, is built on the site of the old Heidelberg Brewery, whose top floor water tower was a minor landmark in Tacoma for decades.
It was the significance of that brewery in Tacoma history as well as the proximity of the hotel site to Tacoma’s historic warehouse district and Union Station Federal Courthouse that brought many revisions of the original architectural plans that Hotel Concepts presented to the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission.
Preservationists at first asked whether part of the old brewery should be preserved, but that building proved to be such hodge-podge of architectural styles and frequent additions that preserving it proved unfeasible. But the commission, not wanting to see a clone of the freeway style of Tacoma’s last major hotel, the Marriott, prompted design changes that helped the resulting hotel blend with the old buildings around it.
Inside, the Holiday Inn Express decor is a tasteful blend of browns and blues and furniture that mimics mid-century styles. The building includes 82 standard rooms and 81 suites equipped with kitchenettes and sitting areas that include sofas that can expand into beds.
The hotel is equipped with an indoor pool, a fitness center, a business center and a meeting room large enough to accommodate 120 people.
Rates, dependent on the season and demand, will range from $109 for a standard room to $299 a night for the largest suite, said Curtis. Those rates include free parking in the hotel’s garage and a breakfast.
Five of the suites are larger “City Suites.” Those suites are situated on the hotel’s northeast corner with expansive views of the UWT campus, downtown and the Port of Tacoma. Two of those suites have two bedrooms. One is equipped with a conference table and chairs for small corporate or organizational meetings. All have kitchens.
Ed Kim, general counsel for Hotel Concepts, said the Holiday Inn Express Downtown Tacoma is the latest part of the nine-hotel regional chain. That chain also owns the Howard Johnson Inn in Tacoma. The hotel developer has several hotels under construction in the region. It has acquired property in Olympia as a hotel site, but hasn’t made any firm commitments for that site.
The $18 million Holiday Inn Express Downtown Tacoma is a welcome addition to Tacoma’s repertoire of hotels, said Bennish Brown, president and chief executive of the Tacoma Regional Convention and Visitors Bureau.
The hotel, within walking distance of the Greater Tacoma Convention and Trade Center, the UWT and downtown businesses, will allow Tacoma to compete more strongly against rival communities seeking conventions and regional meetings, he said.
Three more hotels are in various stages of planning in Tacoma. A new hotel on Dock Street near Thea’s Landing has been on the drawing boards for eight years. Both financial and legal challenges have kept that hotel on the Thea Foss Waterway from beginning construction. The last of those legal cases was decided in favor of the hotel developer last summer, and that developer is seeking final permits for the building.
A Silver Cloud Hotel has announced its intentions to build a hotel at Point Ruston near Point Defiance Park as part of that billion-dollar mixed use development there. No timetable has been released for that hotel’s construction start.
Oregon-based McMenamins has bought the old Elks Temple on the north side of Tacoma’s downtown with the intent of making the building into a hotel and entertainment venue with restaurants, bars and club rooms. Again, no specific timetable has been announced.