The clock’s ticking down for developer Jack Bariteau following a unanimous decision by the Ketchum City Council finding his firm in breach of its development agreement to build a luxury hotel at the south end of Main Street.
Bariteau had until Monday to show that he can pay for the project, per an extension granted by the city in June 2018.
During a special meeting Monday night, the council voted 4-0 to void the deal, instructing staff to draw up the necessary paperwork to sign at its Oct. 7 meeting. Once that’s finalized, Bariteau’s Trail Creek Fund LLC will have 60 days to find the money or start to fill the hole that currently occupies the entrance to town.
He’s opting for the former. Though Bariteau couldn’t show it during Monday’s hearing, he said that a private loan is imminent—he just needs more time to get it in order.
“We do have a loan commitment—we just couldn’t close it in time,” Bariteau told the Idaho Mountain Express outside the meeting. “That’s just how it works. We will close it.”
He told the same thing to Sun Valley Economic Development during a meeting of that group on Sept. 18, according to Councilwoman Courtney Hamilton, Ketchum’s liaison to that board. There, he said a $60 million private loan was inbound, and enough to launch the project. (Bariteau also sits on SVED’s board.)
If the money comes through, Bariteau will have until the end of 2021 to complete construction.
If it doesn’t, Trail Creek Fund has a remediation plan filed with the city to level the pit and repair the site.
The plan was one stipulation tied to the latest extension of Bariteau’s building permit, granted by the city in June 2018—the fifth it has issued since the agreement was first forged in 2008. He completed another step in the past year, too: paying some $750,000 to underground powerlines around the project, Ketchum Planning Director John Gaeddert said.
In 2018, Bariteau said he had already invested around $13 million in the project.
Following extensions in 2010, 2012, 2013 and 2015, the City Council said the 2018 lifeline would be the project’s last. On Monday, Bariteau wasn’t asking for another—just the 60 days he’s entitled to by the contract to “cure” the breach of its terms.
That made the city decision pretty simple Monday afternoon.
“There is no financing at this point—there is financing being pursued,” Mayor Neil Bradshaw said. “We said no further extensions, and that’s still the case.”
“In my mind, there’s a material breach,” Councilwoman Amanda Breen said. “Finance hasn’t been secured, so it’s our job to declare it a breach.”
Bariteau declined to comment on other aspects of the project. In addition to the 62 rooms and 12 residences slated to go into the hotel, he’s on the hook for 18 beds of employee housing tied to the main development. His firm proposed a three-story mixed-use building on First Avenue to satisfy that obligation. An application seeking a tax exemption from Blaine County earlier this year claimed that building will cost another $17 million.
“I’ve never done anything so difficult in my life,” Bariteau told the council. “But it’s not something I’m giving up on.”
Public enthusiasm for the hotel has waned in the 11 years since Bariteau first pitched the hotel, and his reception at the hearing, though civil, was chilly.
A few supporters vouched for Bariteau’s character, and track record, which includes both the Christiania and Colonnade buildings in downtown Ketchum.
“If he says he’ll get the financing, you should take him at his word, because of his track record,” said longtime Ketchum resident Mickey Garcia, who supports the development. “Give him some more rope, and he’ll either hang himself with it, or get this thing built.”
But most of the attendees were just sick of the hole.
Kathleen Krekow owns property on East River Street, across Leadville Avenue from the construction site. To her, the hotel development has been “the antithesis of the Colonnade” thus far.
“The owners have made no effort to im-prove that property,” she said. “The project isn’t happening. It hasn’t happened for 10 years, and they’ve done nothing to make that site habitable, or compatible to the entrance to our community.”
Blaine County resident Jima Rice agreed.
“Jack Bariteau is a businessman, and in every businessman’s life he has successes and failures,” she told the City Council. “He may have had successes in the past, but he’s got a failure here. It’s time he took some responsibility for that failure, and the impact it’s had on the community.”