Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Ketchum approves hotel extension

Council, developer voice optimism for completing project

Express Staff Writer

    The Ketchum City Council on Monday unanimously approved a request by the developers of the planned Hotel Ketchum to extend the window of the project’s approval.
The quick vote came after developer Jack Bariteau shared his optimism and successes finding investors to back the hotel’s construction. As a result, the third amendment to the agreement modifies the Hotel Ketchum approval timeline to Oct. 6, 2015.
    “My optimism is finally being rewarded for this project,” Bariteau said during the meeting. “It’s been daunting, it’s been disappointing and it’s been discouraging to not be able to come back to the city and say we can actually get going. What I’m finding is that this requires a lot of patience, diligence and work effort. The good thing is they’re ready to go. We’re finally on the cusp of making this happen.”
    Hotel Ketchum is planned to be a 73-room, four-star hotel on the site of the Trail Creek Village shopping center. The site is on Main Street near the southern entrance to the city. Originally proposed in 2007, the project has stalled as a result of recurring difficulties in finding investors after the real estate crash.
   Bariteau told the council he made the request because the hotel industry is being buoyed by a period of expansion of the capital markets that he hasn’t seen in the past five years. He said he’s had eight meetings over the past two weeks with funding groups he never could have talked to two years ago. Additionally, he said he has a standing offer from an offshore fund that will allow the project to get started quickly if the offer is accepted.
   Still, Bariteau said he’s in the process of vetting multiple investment opportunities to determine the best way to construct the hotel. Bariteau took on a new approach to funding the hotel involving a federal program called EB-5.
    Ketchum Community Development and Economic Director Lisa Horowitz wrote a recommendation to pass the extension. In her recommendation, she wrote, “Due to the complexity of the EB-5 program, it is anticipated that one full year is needed to develop the program, and another year to secure all of the funding for the hotel.”
    With the extension, Bariteau will work with Scott Fuller, an EB-5 professional, to build the hotel using EB-5 funds. Fuller said they will work together to gain funding from Chinese investors under the program. Fuller also spoke of his successes using the program as he has successfully helped build four hotels using EB-5 funds.
    Horowitz wrote, “The EB-5 program was created by the federal government 25 years ago as a way of creating jobs in the United States. The basic tenant of the program is that foreign nationals may obtain green cards in exchange for investing money in projects in the United States.”
    Ketchum resident David Caldwell has also worked with Bariteau on the project, and on Monday voiced his confidence in the project’s funding.
“I began to work with Jack on this about two and a half years ago, just when I saw the financial market loosen up just a little bit,” he said, “first, for existing hotel refinancing, then slowly and gradually beginning to creep into the development of hotels in the primary market. This project would marry very well with the EB-5 program if Scott is successful in raising 50 percent of the total project cost.”
    Ketchum resident Doug Brown voiced his steadfast support of the Bariteau’s resilience to construct the hotel.
    “I would say the council should jump at this opportunity,” he said. “The persistence which Jack has shown on trying to make this hotel a reality for our community is unbelievable. The adversity and the obstacles he’s had to face are incredible. This community needs a high-end hotel on Main Street.”
    As Bariteau made his public appeal for the extension, he spoke of his determination to complete the project.
“I’m here to stick with this. You know what my commitment has been to this community over the past 10 years,” he said. “I’ve made tremendous investments in this community. I’ve stuck with our merchants through thick and thin. I believe in this city and its future, and I’m not giving up.”
Mayor Randy Hall emphatically supported the extension before the vote by the council.
    “This is an extraordinary situation,” Hall said. “We’ve all lived through it over the past couple of years. Our friends and neighbors have lost their jobs and have had to move away.
    “This gives us an innovative idea and this application deserves unanimous approval. It sends a strong message to Scott and Jack to carry on. There is no more Bald Mountain Hotel [plan]. Jack is the only show in town. If we want to get a hotel done, this is it. So let’s get it done.”

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