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The Register-Guard

Group plans hotel, conference center for Glenwood riverfront

April 3rd 2014

A group of local business people is submitting plans to build a $43 million riverfront hotel and conference center on Franklin Boulevard in Glenwood, behind the Ramsey Waite Co. equipment dealership.

They say they also are planning a second phase of the development, to replace the existing Ramsey Waite business at the front of the 7-acre site with retail, office and residential space.

Greg Vik, president of Vik Construction, is a one-third partner in Glenwood H&CC Development, the company formed to build the hotel and conference center. Allen Lonstron and his son, Luke, of Hospitality Enterprises have a one-third share. And Ada Lee, president of International Inc.; David Tam, CEO of Tam Global Consultants, and Jim Nees, a CPA and president of Idea Tech, together have a one-third share.

The conference center would be 46,000 square feet and include meeting space spread over two floors, a full-service riverfront restaurant, and a two-story glass-fronted atrium facing the river, the partners said Wednesday.

It would be connected on the west side to a six-story, 95,000-square-foot hotel with 150 suites, Vik and Allen Lonstron said. All of the rooms would have river views, Lonstron said.

The partners said they will submit plans to Springfield and Lane County officials and meet with the Springfield City Council and the Lane County Board of Commissioners on Monday. They said they are negotiating loans for the project and want county and city help paying interest on the project debt, up to a total of $8.5 million. For the project to proceed, it's also crucial that the state complete two planned roundabouts on the section of Franklin Boulevard in front of the property, they said.

The second phase of the project would be a joint venture between this group and the Karotko family, owners of Ramsey Waite, an equipment and motorcycle dealer. The Kartokos are selling the land at the back of their property to the hotel partners for that building and the conference center, but will retain ownership of the front of the property.

Phase two would consist of two buildings at the front of the proeprty of four to six stories each with ground floor retail space and office space and housing - both rental and condominium units - above that, according to the initial plans drawn up by Myhre Group Architects of Portland. (Vik said that the partners plan to use Lane County firms for subsequent architectural, engineering, construction and other work.)

The investors also plan to build a street leading from Franklin Boulevard into the hotel/conference center, between the two blocks of retail/office housing space. Once this street is completed, the partners plan to hand it over to the city of Springfield, they said.

If all goes well the hotel could be completed by late spring 2016, they said.

The partners said that the Oregon Department of Transportation first needs to build two roundabouts planned for the section of Franklin Boulevard in front of their parcel of land, which would provide access to the buildings they are planning.

Plus, the partners said they want Springfield and Lane County to agree to pay some of the initial debt service on the loans they are negotiating for the first phase of the project. Lonstron said the hotel partners already have funding in place for the $26 million hotel and are now putting together funding for the conference center, which they expect to cost about $17 million. The hotel will not go forward without the conference center, he said, since the partners expect it to provide customers for the hotel.

He declined to break down the sources of funding but said the project will benefit from the federal EB-5 visa program, which sets aside visas for overseas investors that invest in qualified projects in areas deemed to be economically depressed.

Representatives of the investor group will appear before a joint meeting of the Springfield City Council and the Lane County Board of Commissioners on Monday to provide details of their proposal and answer questions.

Lonstron and Vik said they hope the project will spur further redevelopment along Franklin Boulevard. They said they had already talked to some of the neighboring landowners, who have said they are excited about the possibilities of redeveloping their own properties.

"I wouldn't call this a redevelopment," Lonstron said of the proposed hotel project.

"I'd call it a resurrection. The hotel's purpose is to be a catalyst, to make this all happen."

Vik has been involved in a previous attempt to develop a hotel in Glenwood. In 2006, he partnered with Eugene developer Wally Graff to bid for a chance to redevelop a 48-acre swath of riverfront land into a multi-use neighborhood anchored by a national hotel brand. The local partners lost out to an out of state firm, which later decided not to go ahead with the project.

In early 2012, Vik fell prey to the recession, temporarily shutting down his three-generation family firm as construction dried up in Lane County. He then went to work for one of his competitors, Chambers Construction.

But the shutdown of Vik Construction was short-lived - the firm resumed work with some small projects last year, Greg Vik said.

This time around, Vik said, his proposed hotel project has several things going for it. First, he and the Lonstrons have strong local partners - Lee, Tam and Nees. "There's a level of trust," he said.

Second, Vik said, the hotel developers are dealing with one landowner who is a partner in the second phase of the project, as opposed to multiple landowners. "We didn't have to come in and buy commercial land at steep prices," he said. And much of the Ramsey Waite site is currently vacant, he added, so "We're starting with a blank slate."

Third, interest rates are low now and building materials relatively plentiful and cheaper than the pre-recession peaks.

Vik and Lonstron said they don't foresee their hotel project, if it goes through, taking away business from existing hotels. First, they said, there aren't a lot of extended-stay hotels in the area currently. And this market is different than people just looking for a room for one or two nights, they said.

Vik and Luke Lonstron envision their customers as being people coming to town for multi-day stays, for example sports events and getting out-of state students settled at University of Oregon, as well as conferences taking place on the property.

Also, more hotel rooms means that Eugene can bid for larger conventions and other events, they said.

Nor do they see it conflicting with their neighbors - Vik said that he was particularly pleased that one of their neighbors will likely be an affordable housing complex now in the works. And their neighbors to the west - the Roth family who operate Roaring Rapids Pizza - and to the east - the Martin family - are interested in redeveloping, Allen Lonstron said.

Once completed, Lonstron estimated, the hotel and conference center would
have 150 full-time employees as well as some part-time ones. It also would create 200 to 250 construction jobs, he said.

Investor Lee said she is excited by the opportunities the project will provide to apprentices, trainees and interns, an interest near to her heart. "We could use the project to expand internships - during construction and after construction - to train young people to do things in the community."

"The project will make a place that's not useful into a beautiful place that's of benefit to the community," Lee said, "With the support of the community it will be successful."