Hotel projects under way for Clark County, Wash.

Sept. 2, 2008
Three projects under construction in various stages


Aug. 28--Three hotel projects are poised to deliver more than 200 additional overnight guest rooms to Clark County next year.

But the developments -- which include two new hotels and one expansion -- could signal the end of a short building spurt for the local hospitality industry after a listless summer travel season. Some hoteliers are rethinking their development plans as loans for commercial projects get harder to come by, said Kim Bennett, president and chief executive officer of the Southwest Washington Visitors and Convention Bureau.

"If they haven't received the financing yet, you're probably not going to see those projects get built," she said.

In the meantime, the three new hotel projects under construction include:

--The Best Western in Washougal, a 78-room hotel in four levels overlooking the Columbia River at the Port of Camas-Washougal, just north of the Parker House restaurant.

--The Holiday Inn Express, a 90-room project near Westfield Vancouver mall on the corner of 41st Street and 72nd Avenue, next to the 117-room Staybridge Suites and three blocks away from the 140-room Heathman Lodge.

--A $6.5 million expansion to the Heathman Lodge that will add 40 guest rooms, a state-of-the-art banquet kitchen and a 4,000-square-foot ballroom to make it Clark County's second-largest hotel facility.

The Heathman addition was a direct response to business at the rustic-style venue, said Brett Wilkerson, hospitality president of Portland-based North Pacific Management, which operates the Heathman.

"Our rev-par (revenue per available room) remains very positive by comparison" to competitors, Wilkerson said.

Despite that, sales remained flat for the rest of Clark County's hotels. The most recent figures showed occupancy rates at about 59.9 percent countywide in May, compared to 56.2 percent during the same month a year ago and 75.8 percent in 2006.

Occupancy down

That's likely to put the brakes on development, Bennett said. "There are different areas of the county that have had demand (for hotel rooms) for a number of years, but you have to find a developer who is comfortable investing there," she said.

The developers of a Washougal Best Western seem to fit the profile. The project's owner, Harry Hajari, comes from a family of local hotel owners. He could not be reached for comment, but city officials say the project is on track to open in 2009.