Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Brigham City OKs Controversial Hotel for Downtown

The city council approved a development agreement with Western States Lodging to bring a Hampton Inn, part of the Hilton chain, to downtown. The nearly $6 million hotel will be connected to the proposed Academy Square.

David Webster, CEO of Western States Lodging and a resident of Mantua, said the management company is aiming for construction to begin in late spring, with the hotel set to open before year’s end. Under that agreement, it will purchase the ground surrounding the Academy Square building for $500,000.

As part of the financing, the city will host a loan for $400,000 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture that is designed to encourage development in rural areas.

Concerns about the city’s financial dealings in bringing the hotel to the city, as well as the issue of fairness to existing Brigham City hotels, has prompted continued public comment about the project at city council meetings over the last few months.

Paul Larsen, Brigham City’s director of community and economic development, said the architecture of the Hampton Inn will be designed to match the flavor of Academy Square.

At the center of the Academy Square project is the Academy Building, also known as the Christensen Academy of Music and Dance, which was built in 1903 as a dance and arts academy by the Christensen brothers. One brother, Bill Christensen, went on to found Ballet West.

The restoration of the old academy is projected to cost about $2 million.

Councilwoman Ruth Jensen reminded the council that the Academy Square project was to be paid for through private fundraising, but the city’s involvement, she said, has been expensive in areas such as land purchases and time spent by city employees facilitating the development.

As part of the development agreement, Western States Lodging will oversee daily management of the Academy Square. It will serve as a convention and reception facility that, Webster said, will be available for wedding receptions and high school events. Standard Examiner