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Five Hotels in Ketchum’s Future

Lining up for progress

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Last fall, the city of Ketchum was presented with five separate proposals for construction of hotels in the downtown area, and isn’t sure which will open for business first.

The proposals, sure to change the economics of the town, range from a 70-room facility to one with 200 rooms and accompanying townhouses. They range from a downtown hotel with little surrounding land to one on 160 acres.

The Sun Valley-Ketchum Chamber and Visitors Bureau believes proposed new hotels ranked at the four-and five-star level will not only replace hotel rooms lost when developers tore down existing motels and motor lodges, but will bring a new type of clientele to the area. The hotels do more than provide beds—they provide a luxury experience. There are high hopes for the hotels in Ketchum.

This winter, one had met with approval already and was searching for financing, another was partly through the application and approval process, and a third had brought architectural designs to Ketchum Planning and Zoning Commission members for a pre-application glance.

The other two were expected to turn in applications. Of those two, the Sun Valley Co. hotel near the base of the River Run side of Bald Mountain Ski Area might end up being the first constructed, given millionaire-owner Earl Holding’s ready cash and reputation for rapid construction.

Either way, hotel doors are expected to open between 2011 and 2014, altering the stock of luxury hotels beyond current recognition.

“We have the potential for five hotels, all on parallel construction timelines,” says Ketchum Planning Department Senior Planner Nathan Warren. That could really affect traffic flow, he added, among other potential temporary problems.

In preparation, city officials last year wrote new laws limiting noise, materials storage and construction worker parking on construction sites.

Nevertheless, handling several projects advancing at once will not go unnoticed in the small city any more than having five new hotels operating at once would.

Warren said the Hotel Ketchum, which was given the green light by the City Council in November 2008, appears to be in the lead for a possible 2012 opening under optimal conditions, but that has been changed by the collapse of the debt markets over the last six months. Developer Jack Bariteau said he expects financial institutions to be cautious and stingy, leaving him to find private investors or other forms of equity.

Sun Valley Co. doesn’t have that problem, since Holding finances new construction from his company account without the assistance of bankers.

The project that was partly through the application process, Warm Springs Ranch Resort on Warm Springs Road near the Warm Springs side of Bald Mountain, will be facing the financing battle once approvals are firmly in hand. Those final approvals could come early in 2009, leaving finances to determine when ground gets broken for construction.

Warm Springs Ranch Resort has been proposed for a 78-acre property that presently contains a golf course, tennis courts and a closed restaurant. Under the plan, the golf course would remain as an amenity, although changed to a shorter executive course.

Tennis courts will disappear along with Warm Springs Restaurant. A new building adjacent to the core hotel building will house a reincarnated Warm Springs Restaurant. Villas, two estate lots, townhouses and a separate building to house 46 percent of the necessary hotel workers are part of the plan, along with a spa, bar, hotel restaurant, penthouse residences and meeting rooms.

Warm Springs Ranch Resort renderings reveal plans for 120 rooms, villas and condominiums slated for completion in 2015.Hiking trails linked to the Bald Mountain trail at River Run and Warm Springs have been promised along with restored habitat for fish in Warm Springs Creek.

The core hotel with six floors reaching a peak 93 feet above grade is 447,000 square feet, a substantial building for Ketchum where two-story buildings were once rare.

Although Warm Springs residents have complained about the size, the proposed River Run development might end up making Warm Springs Ranch Resort look small. Design Workshop, planner for Sun Valley Co., said 200 rooms in a hotel structure will likely be accompanied by 500 residential units, housing for employees, some commercial space and a massive parking garage to replace the surface parking lots currently at River Run for skiers. >>>


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