Financing difficulties stymie plans for North Bend hotel
February 2, 2011
By Dan Catchpole
Plans for a hotel in North Bend near the highway have stalled due to the tight credit market. Other parties remain interested in other hotel sites in the upper Snoqualmie Valley, but those plans wouldn’t be pursued for at least a couple of years.
George Wyrsch has been trying to build a hotel in North Bend for more than a decade. The planned site, immediately south of Interstate 90’s Exit 31, is overgrown with vegetation.
Residents from the neighboring Forster Woods development have stymied Wyrsch’s efforts through City Council and litigation. In the early part of the past decade, City Council prohibited hotels south of I-90.
The residents opposed the development, which, they say, will lower home prices, increase crime and take away from their neighborhood’s rural character.
However, the road appeared clear for Wyrsch when the City Council lifted the ban on hotels in a 6-1 vote last April.
Wyrsch already had an architect, and several hotel chains had expressed interest in having a franchise in the area, he said.
Permits still had to be issued, and the building would still have to clear several hurdles, including city design review and state environmental review. But the main roadblock had been removed.
That is until Wyrsch tried to get financing for the project, which will take between 12 and 18 months to finish. Wyrsch has been unable to find money in the commercial credit market, he said.
“I still want to build a hotel, but so far I haven’t been able to find the money,” he said.
Wyrsch said several hotel chains remained interested in opening a franchise, but that he hasn’t signed to any company, yet. A franchise agreement often requires that the new hotel open within three years of signing or penalties will be charged. For that reason, Wyrsch said he doesn’t want to sign until the financing is lined up.
The difficulty in funding the project has nothing to do with the project or the location, he said.
The Snoqualmie Valley is greatly underserved by hotels, he said.
“I anticipate there will be potentially two or three hotels in North Bend,” he said.
Forster Woods residents have not resigned themselves to having a hotel down the hill from their homes.
The neighborhood’s homeowners association or individual residents could pursue litigation to block future development, according to Doug Weinmaster, a Forster Woods resident.
“That’s still a possibility,” he said.
Wyrsch is not the only person interested in building a hotel in the Valley. But no parties appear to be in a hurry to break ground.
The master plan for Snoqualmie Casino’s property includes a hotel, but how big it will be and when it will be built remain open questions, said Matt Gallagher, the casino’s vice-president.
“At this point, we don’t see any plans in the immediate future,” he said.
Nothing would happen in 2011, but beyond that he couldn’t be as certain, he added.
Like Wyrsch, the casino is not concerned about potential competition.
The Salish Lodge & Spa could expand with a new facility with up to 250 rooms across the road from its current location. But the lodge’s owner, the Muckleshoot Tribe, has told the city it is holding off until demand improves, according to Snoqualmie Mayor Matt Larson.
Another developer has expressed interest to the city in building a hotel next to Snoqualmie Valley Hospital’s future site near the interchange of I-90 and state Route 18, Larson said.
That group, however, asked the city to not divulge its identity and is holding off for the time being.