By Myers Reece, 2-11-13
||Caption: The parking lot located at the intersection of East Third Street and Central Avenue in Whitefish is a possible location for a downtown hotel. - Lido Vizzutti | Flathead Beacon
The owners of The Lodge at Whitefish Lake have reached out to city officials to express their interest in building a boutique hotel in downtown Whitefish, an idea that has been discussed for years.
In a Jan. 24 letter to the city, Brian Averill of Averill Hospitality wrote that his family would like to develop a “Timeless Boutique Hotel” at the corner of Third Street and Central Avenue. The city-owned site is currently being used as a surface parking lot.
The Averill family owns and operates The Lodge at Whitefish Lake, with Brian handling resort operations and expansion.
“As Montana's only 4 diamond resort, we believe that we are uniquely positioned to produce a quality boutique hotel,” Averill wrote in the letter, referring to The Lodge’s Four Diamond Award from AAA.
“We have established a reputation as a premier lodging establishment and we are well known for our great customer service. The infrastructure of the Lodge at Whitefish Lake allows for synergies and economies of scale that will benefit the new property.”
The Whitefish City Council discussed the letter at a Feb. 4 meeting. At its upcoming Feb. 18 public meeting, the council is expected to assign city officials to a committee to begin talking with the Averills, according to City Manager Chuck Stearns.
Averill is hoping to work with the city subcommittee on a preliminary development agreement to be drafted for council consideration.
“That agreement would give us exclusive rights to develop plans and bring a project to the Council for approval of a detailed development agreement within a specified period of time,” Averill told city officials.
Whitefish’s 2005 downtown master plan identified the construction of boutique hotel as a “catalyst project” for the city core. The plan called for a 36- to 45-room hotel on the empty corner of Central Avenue and First Street, which would provide a “refined, urban, downtown lodging establishment to be developed for business travelers and visitors not currently offered in Whitefish.”
At one point, Tom Donohue’s International Capital Partners announced a plan to build a 40- to 60-room boutique hotel at that site, which is comprised of multiple lots next to the Craggy Range Bar and Grill. But that plan never came to fruition. Donohue later opened Coopers Eatery and Drinkery.
Representatives from Whitefish Frontiers LLC – the new owner of the site at Central and First – have previously spoken with city officials about building a hotel there, though nothing has transpired, Stearns said.
“We’ve heard they don’t have any immediate plans,” Stearns said. “Development is an industry that changes quickly.”
In closing his letter, Averill noted the economic potential of a hotel for the city.
“We are pleased to know that the City is interested in adding a downtown hotel as part of the overall city development plan,” he wrote, “and we want to ensure that the end result is a quality property that will bring economic growth to the community.”
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