Community May 6, 2009

Five Hotels in Ketchum’s Future

Lining up for progress

Last fall, the city of Ketchum was presented with five separate proposals for construction of hotels in the downtown area, and isn’t sure which will open for business first.

The proposals, sure to change the economics of the town, range from a 70-room facility to one with 200 rooms and accompanying townhouses. They range from a downtown hotel with little surrounding land to one on 160 acres.

The Sun Valley-Ketchum Chamber and Visitors Bureau believes proposed new hotels ranked at the four-and five-star level will not only replace hotel rooms lost when developers tore down existing motels and motor lodges, but will bring a new type of clientele to the area. The hotels do more than provide beds—they provide a luxury experience. There are high hopes for the hotels in Ketchum.

This winter, one had met with approval already and was searching for financing, another was partly through the application and approval process, and a third had brought architectural designs to Ketchum Planning and Zoning Commission members for a pre-application glance.

The other two were expected to turn in applications. Of those two, the Sun Valley Co. hotel near the base of the River Run side of Bald Mountain Ski Area might end up being the first constructed, given millionaire-owner Earl Holding’s ready cash and reputation for rapid construction.

Either way, hotel doors are expected to open between 2011 and 2014, altering the stock of luxury hotels beyond current recognition.

“We have the potential for five hotels, all on parallel construction timelines,” says Ketchum Planning Department Senior Planner Nathan Warren. That could really affect traffic flow, he added, among other potential temporary problems.

In preparation, city officials last year wrote new laws limiting noise, materials storage and construction worker parking on construction sites.

Nevertheless, handling several projects advancing at once will not go unnoticed in the small city any more than having five new hotels operating at once would.

Warren said the Hotel Ketchum, which was given the green light by the City Council in November 2008, appears to be in the lead for a possible 2012 opening under optimal conditions, but that has been changed by the collapse of the debt markets over the last six months. Developer Jack Bariteau said he expects financial institutions to be cautious and stingy, leaving him to find private investors or other forms of equity.

Sun Valley Co. doesn’t have that problem, since Holding finances new construction from his company account without the assistance of bankers.

The project that was partly through the application process, Warm Springs Ranch Resort on Warm Springs Road near the Warm Springs side of Bald Mountain, will be facing the financing battle once approvals are firmly in hand. Those final approvals could come early in 2009, leaving finances to determine when ground gets broken for construction.

Warm Springs Ranch Resort has been proposed for a 78-acre property that presently contains a golf course, tennis courts and a closed restaurant. Under the plan, the golf course would remain as an amenity, although changed to a shorter executive course.

Tennis courts will disappear along with Warm Springs Restaurant. A new building adjacent to the core hotel building will house a reincarnated Warm Springs Restaurant. Villas, two estate lots, townhouses and a separate building to house 46 percent of the necessary hotel workers are part of the plan, along with a spa, bar, hotel restaurant, penthouse residences and meeting rooms.

Warm Springs Ranch Resort renderings reveal plans for 120 rooms, villas and condominiums slated for completion in 2015.Hiking trails linked to the Bald Mountain trail at River Run and Warm Springs have been promised along with restored habitat for fish in Warm Springs Creek.

The core hotel with six floors reaching a peak 93 feet above grade is 447,000 square feet, a substantial building for Ketchum where two-story buildings were once rare.

Although Warm Springs residents have complained about the size, the proposed River Run development might end up making Warm Springs Ranch Resort look small. Design Workshop, planner for Sun Valley Co., said 200 rooms in a hotel structure will likely be accompanied by 500 residential units, housing for employees, some commercial space and a massive parking garage to replace the surface parking lots currently at River Run for skiers. >>>



Sun Valley Lodge at River Run at Second Avenue adjacent to Bald Mountain is expected to up room counts by 150 – 200. The detailed map above shows the plan for the project. The red indicates multi-family condos, the green, open space, the ochre, single family. 


Sun Valley Co. wants Ketchum to annex 160 acres currently inside unincorporated Blaine County boundaries to allow the development access to city water and sewer

In the past, Ketchum city officials have said they don’t object to annexation of the property. Warm Springs Ranch Resort also requires annexation.

Somewhere between the River Run development’s grand scale and the 73-room Hotel Ketchum is the Ketchum Lodge planned for an empty lot by the Ketchum Post Office at Fourth and Second.

Ketchum Lodge has a similar plan headed for a spot on Second Avenue with the Sun Valley Center for the Arts as a classy neighbor. Developers Centurion Partners plan to submit an application in 2009. With community housing units for sale, their project hopes to keep many of its employees happy. Roughly 10,000 square feet of workforce housing at the back of the hotel aims to keep workers handy.

At Ketchum Lodge, five individual meeting rooms that can combine into one is part of the package along with an outdoor plaza and the Sun Valley Center for the Arts as a neighbor. A swimming pool on the roof will pull rays from the western sun.

An underground parking lot on the Centurion Partners land would accommodate hotel guests, artists speaking at Sun Valley Center and everyone in between.

A bird’s eye view of the Ketchum Lodge design.Ketchum Lodge plans to build 73 hotel rooms, 17 fractional ownership units and several upscale residences to be sold. The project totals 173,000 square feet. Four thousand of the square feet are in the conference room, and Crystal England, development representative, said Centurion wants to build a project that will be not only a showpiece for the community, but a centerpiece for the life of its residents.

 “It’s a very pedestrian-oriented site,” Warren said.

Because the location faces the Ketchum Post Office on Second Avenue and has a bike path leading to its door and running through the back, Ketchum City Council has asked the hotel to consider having extensive interaction with the public.

So far, city officials have asked all five developers to make conference meeting rooms available to people other than hotel guests along with spas and restaurants. Hotel developers have not balked at that. >>>



Hotel Ketchum, is planned as a hotel and condominium project on Main and River Streets.In terms of style, none of the buildings are purely mountain ski lodge in appearance, although stone elements keep a rustic feel. Bariteau’s Hotel Ketchum has the urban touch of steel and sharper angles than any of the log cabins it’s replacing at Trail Creek Village, although the project architect, John Davis of Hornberger+Worstell AIA, still calls it appropriate for the mountains.

The core hotel building at Warm Springs has a slice of the grandeur of Yellowstone or Glacier national park lodges with contemporary flavoring. Like many of the new Ketchum condominium and commercial buildings, their style doesn’t fit into a neat category.

One thing is for sure, though.

Every hotel, when constructed, will be taller than anything else in the Ketchum area except the 64-foot-high Sun Valley Lodge and will produce visual changes in the architectural landscape.

Supporters of luxury hotels for Ketchum feel the anticipated tradeoff in increased tourism is worth it.

Many business owners are impatient for the increased tourist numbers, but they have years to wait, at best.

In some ways, a proposed hotel for the Bald Mountain Lodge site on Main Street across from the Kentwood Lodge is the furthest from a construction date. Yet this hotel site has been in the news for years and numerous architectural renderings for the site have been drawn so it might not be as slow as others.

Originally proposed by Brian Barsotti, who also owns land at Warm Springs under consideration for a new hotel near the base of the ski area, the site has been emptied of its 1930s log motel cabins. Barsotti sold to Steve Burnstead and his Seattle-area development company several years ago.

Bald Mountain Lodge on Main Street and Washington in Ketchum’s core is slated to open by 2012 along with nearby Ketchum Hotel.


Burnstead and his Bald Mountain Hotel group insisted upon going five stories high in discussions two years ago, a height that aroused a shock reaction in some quarters. When the city stalled on allowing the application, Burnstead withdrew.

A new LLC with Garrison at the helm was expected to submit an application at the end of 2008 or the start of 2009 for the Main Street location, taking the block between River Street and First Street.

The Bald Mountain site is approximately an acre, similar to Hotel Ketchum, and would take up almost the entire lot. Warren said Garrison thought 70-100 hotel rooms would be included with residential units for sale on the top floor.

Since this hotel was the furthest away from presenting an application, it might be the last built, perhaps even after 2014. But, as Warren said, no one knows how the application approvals or the financing efforts will proceed.

Hotel Ketchum developer Bariteau is almost across the street from the Bald Mountain Hotel location, and both hotels would share a walkable, interactive, downtown location and total building area close to 150,000 square feet each.

Ketchum Lodge is a little more distant for pedestrians while River Run and Warm Springs Ranch Resort are proposed on locations almost a mile from the center of town.

Warren said Warm Springs Ranch Resort plans to build in three or four phases to accomplish its 668,000 gross floor area square footage. He said Sun Valley Co. has not talked about phases for its development.

Bariteau said he hoped to open in 2011, which could make him the first of the four-or five-star quality hotels in Ketchum. Then again, you never know.

The race is on.

Susan Bailey has been watching hotel proposals in the city for years, noting changes in the definition of luxury over time. When she moved to town, the Tyrolean was the luxury hotel in Ketchum.



This article appears in the Spring 2009 Issue of Sun Valley Magazine.