Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Walt Worthy hasn't decided to build his new hotel yet

Posted By on Tue, Jun 25, 2013 at 9:56 AM

click to enlarge waltworthy.jpg
Remember last fall, when, to great fanfare, Davenport Hotel developer Walt Worthy announced plans to build a new 15-story, 700-room headquarters hotel on Main Avenue, near Spokane’s proposed convention center expansion?

“We’re in this for the long haul,” Worthy’s wife, Karen, said at the press conference, after joking about calling marriage counselors and divorce attorneys. The impact of a high-rise hotel on downtown Spokane, on Main Avenue, on Riverside, on the kinds of conventions that Spokane could draw to the convention center could be huge.

It seemed certain. It seemed solid. Groundbreaking was supposed to begin in the first quarter of 2013. But not only has ground not been broken, Worthy still hasn’t yet decided whether the hotel will be built at all.

“We’d prefer not to make a comment,” says Matt Jensen, marketing director for Worthy’s Davenport Hotel, said last week when asked about the proposed hotel and the future of Main Avenue. “We have still not made a complete decision about moving forward on that project.”

Jensen says Worthy is still asking companies to provide bids, and so is not sharing any details about his thought process.

In an encouraging sign this Monday, the Worthy Group signed a more detailed “letter of intent” outlining a proposed arrangement with the Spokane Public Facilities District if the Worthy Group were to purchase the land to build the hotel. Kevin Twohig, director of the district, says they had extended the Worthy Group's original letter of intent on two separate occasions. “We stayed in touch to them just to make sure the project wasn’t dead,” Twohig says. The District is extremely supportive of the project.

While the letter of intent still doesn’t mean the hotel will be built, Twohig says he expects a decision within the next 30 days. Jensen estimates it could be as long as two months.

According to today's Spokesman Review story on the letter of intent, "Worthy has held meetings this year with several hotel companiestrying to find the one to affiliate with for the project. Worthy has said the new hotel will succeed only by having a branded nationalcompany as a partner. But Worthy has yet to nail down a workable deal with a hotel group."

Today and yesterday, I shot Jensen a series of emails, asking if the search for a national partner was the only factor weighing on Worthy's decision, or if there were other issues. Did it have to do with finances? Did it depend on local or state-wide incentives? Were there conversations between Worthy and his wife over whether or not they want to invest the time and energy in creating a brand new hotel?

For now, however, Jensen wouldn't elaborate.

"There are several factors at stake in the final decision," he wrote. "As we stated before we prefer not to comment any further at this time."

And, on those unnamed factors, rests the future of the hotel and the future of downtown Spokane.


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