Come what may, developer Jack Bariteau says he’ll see to it that his proposed mixed-use building materializes on First Avenue in Ketchum.
The project, set for construction on what’s now an empty lot across from Perry’s restaurant on Fourth Street, has one main function—to satisfy the employee-housing requirement for his planned luxury hotel on Main Street.
If the hotel doesn’t get built, Bariteau anticipates that his planned First Avenue building will become community housing. But with a sizeable private loan due to arrive next week, he said he should be able to show proof of financing for the hotel and get the ball rolling on both projects.
“I’m going to proceed with this [First Avenue] project regardless,” the developer told the City Council on Monday night. “It’s a fundamental goal of mine to provide workforce housing, and always has been. We’re not putting hotel employees down below a building here—we’re putting them in above-ground units with great views of Baldy, at a location where they will be able to walk to work.”
Plans for the luxury hotel at the southeast corner of Main and River streets has called for some 62 rooms and 12 residences, plus an additional 18 beds of employee housing tied to the main development. The project site is currently a large hole linked to some infrastructure improvements.
Bariteau has gone over the 18-bed minimum by dedicating 20 apartments in the First Avenue building to workforce housing.
Each council member at Monday’s City Hall meeting complimented that endeavor.
“I see several significant public benefits here,” Councilwoman Amanda Breen said. “Employee housing is huge, and this provides a lot of units in the middle of Ketchum in an underused lot.”
The three council members present declined, however, to put their stamp of approval on the three things Bariteau needs to move forward with his First Avenue building—a partial alley vacation agreement, a preliminary plat agreement and a revised development agreement—citing the need to revise two of the documents.
Their decision to extend Bariteau’s hearing to Dec. 16 was met with frustration on the developer’s behalf.
“For some reason, you’re wanting to continue [hearings], but I need this project approved now,” he told the council. “I’ve got to get this housing built. We’re going to start building the hotel in the spring, so I’m unsure as to why there’s a request for continuance at this point after all this time deliberating.”
Bariteau said he’s at a bit of an impasse. In order to get a loan recorded and get updated construction renderings, for example, a building permit needs to be in place. But since that document has been stalled, he said he won’t be able to move forward just yet.
“This continuance is a total shock. Nobody told me this was going to be recommended until I read the agenda online,” he said. “I’m concerned about the fact that we’ve been working collectively all along this process, and no one’s reached out about [continuance]. Time is really critical here.”
Mayor Neil Bradshaw said that even though he understands Bariteau’s frustration, process is key.
“Clearly, we can’t make an agreement tonight because there are agreements that are still outstanding,” he said. “I understand it’s kind of a chicken-and-egg situation here, but I also want to have the utmost confidence that when the shovel goes into the ground, this project will be finished.”
In Ketchum, Bariteau is known to have successfully implemented both the Christiania and Colonnade buildings downtown. His luxury hotel on Main Street, however, has yet to materialize. Since 2008, he has invested well over $13 million in the project, he has said, and has used five development-agreement extensions to buy more time. But extensions are no longer on the table for the developer: On Sept. 30, the City Council found Bariteau’s firm, Trail Creek Fund LLC, in breach of its development agreement. He was given 60 days—that’s until Dec. 6—to obtain financing for the hotel.
If a multi-million-dollar private loan comes through in the next two weeks as planned, Bariteau has until fall 2021 to complete construction. If not, Trail Creek Fund has a pact with the city to fill in the current excavation site.
No matter what happens, Bariteau says he will go through with the 36,000-square-foot building on First Avenue that would accommodate apartments ranging from 600 to 900 square feet. Technically, developers building units under 750 square feet don’t need to provide parking under city code, but Bariteau has insisted upon it.
“We feel it’s essential to have parking for these apartments, especially given the city provision that prohibits overnight parking in the winter,” he said Monday. “It’s an essential amenity for the employees we expect to attract.”
Beneath the First Avenue development, 32 parking spots would be provided in an underground parking garage located off the alley that connects Fourth Street with Sun Valley Road. The garage would also be the building’s primary access point, requiring that the adjacent alley be vacated as Bariteau has requested.
The vacation is allowed under Ketchum’s new alleyway ordinance if it’s deemed to be in the public interest. There’s only one problem: With a 10 percent grade, the alley is one of Ketchum’s steepest, and right now it’s only used from May to October and used during winter for snow storage.
Bariteau believes the alley can be made more pedestrian-friendly, though, via a comprehensive snowmelt system and new tiered walkway. He has also agreed to split maintenance costs for the rest of the alley with neighbor Charlie Holt.
“We would improve this alley by replacing its outdated water system at our own expense and creating a retaining wall at the end,” he said. “We’d also build a public walkway for access and would maintain the remainder of the alley at our own expense.”
All council members supported the idea of the pedestrian walkway.
“I’m excited about the improvements to the alley that could come out of this and about the possibility of this project,” Councilman Michael David said.