Plans for Boutique Hotel in Downtown Whitefish Move Forward

By Beacon Staff

With the support of the Whitefish City Council, plans to build a 75-room boutique hotel in downtown Whitefish are moving forward with the potential for financial support from the city.

The Whitefish downtown master plan has identified a boutique downtown hotel as a priority for years, and in June developer Orlan Sorenson proposed building an $11.9 million hotel at the intersection of Spokane Avenue and East Second Street; however, he halted the plans after having trouble procuring the financing.

Developers Sean and Brian Averill, owner-operators of The Lodge at Whitefish Lake, secured a contract to purchase Block 46, where they now plan to construct the hotel. The Averills requested $513,633 in tax-increment funds from the city for improvements to infrastructure, including moving a sewer line and street improvements.

Whitefish city councilors on May 19 made a preliminary commitment to assist with infrastructure improvements for the new hotel.

The hotel would generate $128,408 in tax-increment revenue annually, and when the tax-increment finance district sunsets in 2020, it will have generated the amount requested – $513,633 in tax-increment revenue, according to a city staff report prepared by City Manager Chuck Stearns.

“City staff respectfully recommends that the city council consider a preliminary commitment of up to $513,633 in TIF funds or the amount which the City Council feels is appropriate for infrastructure assistance for this Block 46 boutique hotel and direct staff to work with the applicant on a development agreement,” Stearns wrote in the report.

The council voted 5-1 to make a preliminary commitment of TIF funds with John Anderson in opposition.

At the same meeting, the council denied a request from Mountain Mall manager Tom Kraus, who requested $400,000 in TIF to revamp the mall’s outmoded appearance.

In a letter to the city, Kraus wrote “the 1980s design of the Mountain Mall has served its purpose but no longer reflects the feel or look of Whitefish. The brick façade has fallen into disrepair with no simple or economically feasible fix.”

City councilors were skeptical, however, comparing the use of TIF to an interest-free loan.

Also at the meeting, an hotelier from Missoula was also given approval to develop a new 76-room, three-story Hampton Inn & Suites on the south end of town. The council approved a request from Larry Lambert of Lambert Hotels to develop a 20,000 square foot lodge at 6340 U.S. Highway 93 South. Lambert said crews will raze the former Wendy’s building and break ground on the site in early July.

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