By Dillon Tabish, 6-27-12
||Caption: Employees with Sandon Construction Co. work on building the curb of a new road at Hutton Ranch Plaza adjacent to the new Hilton Homewood Suites construction site between Walmart and Signature Theaters. - Lido Vizzutti/Flathead Beacon
It was no secret there were plans to build a new Hilton hotel in Kalispell. But when exactly this rumored project would sprout has been a central question over the last three years as construction stalled across the country, especially in the Flathead Valley.
In a welcome sign for a struggling industry, the longtime Hilton project has finally broken ground. Martel Construction has begun building a four-story, 80,000-square-foot Homewood Suites by Hilton in the Hutton Ranch Plaza. Located at 195 Hutton Ranch Road near Signature Theatres, the new hotel will have 100 large suites targeted at extended stays. The rooms will have full kitchens accompanying the hotel’s swimming pool, spa, fitness center and recreation area similar to other Homewood Suites.
The project’s estimated construction cost is roughly $8.17 million, according to a building permit submitted last week. The expected completion date is next July, according to a Homewood Suites spokesperson.
After years of waiting out the recession, is the Hilton a bellwether project signaling a possible resurgence in future development?
“We certainly hope so,” project manager Ryan Dunn said. “We hope this kind of development will encourage others to ultimately do the same, and more than anything we’d like see more of this happen locally. I think (the Hilton project) is a good thing for everyone.”
Kalispell has averaged about six new commercial projects a year over the last 12 years, according to the city’s planning department. That rate had doubled during the valley’s boom years between 2004-07.
Commercial development has historically been sporadic and hard to predict in terms of emerging trends, especially during tough economic times, according to Planning Director Tom Jentz.
“The recession caught everybody by surprise, obviously,” Jentz said, adding, “It’s a great sign that somebody would take that step to (move forward with building the Hilton).”
Bennett Hofford Co., based in Charleston, S.C., owns the new hotel. The group previously built a Homewood Suites in Bozeman and contracted Martel Construction for that project as well.
Among the different types of hotels within the Hilton chain, the particular significance of Homewood Suites is that they’re designed for longer duration visits. The target is for guests to stay five nights, according to a spokesperson. By encouraging longer stays in the area Hilton’s visitors will likely spend more money locally.
The Homewood Suites choice also represents a particular view of the valley as an enviable destination.
“I think it’s a strong indicator that the outside market still looks at Kalispell as a place to be and come to,” Jentz said. “The fact that even as the recession and economy is difficult, the traveling public is still coming and it’s a destination. That’s a great sign.”
Martel Construction already has almost 20 employees working on initial development of the new hotel. Dunn estimates that number to hit close to 100 during peak construction.
“We’re very excited to see this project started,” Dunn said. “This is something we’ve been working on for quite some time.”
Another large project in Kalispell, a 40-unit elderly housing facility, is in the early stages of development. The three-story facility, being called the Depot Place Housing Project, would be located at the corner of Third Avenue and Center Street near Woodland Park. Jentz said the planning board will review the project next month.
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