by Joel Smith

Smaller and Different -- SPOKANE -- Chad Hutson almost has to yell to be heard over the screams of a circular saw in the Montvale Hotel lobby. "It's not another Davenport," he says, looking pleased. Entering one of the crooked empty rooms, he motions broadly toward one wall and indicates that's where the LCD television will go, then shows off a couple of antique wood mantlepieces. Hutson, vice president of the development firm ConoverBond, says that Rob Brewster, his company's president and the guiding force behind the nascent Montvale Hotel, was influenced by "the inns and bed and breakfasts he saw [while] traveling in Europe." (Brewster has also developed the Catacombs restaurant in the Montvale's basement along with a host of other projects.)

The much-touted hotel, on the corner of Monroe Street and West First Avenue and perched above Far West Billiards, is slated to open Jan. 8. You wouldn't know it from the gaggle of workers busily staining trim and slicing into the walls. Still, as Hutson moves from room to room, across the open skylit lobby and into a dark abyss that will eventually become one of the hotel's two high-tech conference rooms, you get the sense that things are quickly taking shape.

The 36 rooms are bathed in a warm squash-yellow, with high ceilings and picture windows. The central courtyard-style lobby is bright and spacious, meant to be a kind of gathering place.

Downstairs, at street level, Hutson paints a picture of the front lobby and steers into a huge brick-walled room that will eventually house Latitude, the hotel's restaurant, next door to Ella's Supper Club. The restaurant menu, like much of the rest of the hotel -- its art, its mattresses -- will be locally focused: Northwest cuisine, with a French spin. A quiet little room in the back may one day be a coffee room or a martini bar, with access from the alley out back.

All this can be yours for somewhere between $130 and $300 a night. Well, not yours. "Spokane isn't our target," says Hutson. Instead, they're aiming at business trippers and travelers from Canada, Montana and Oregon.

Asked if he thinks Spokane can support another high-end hotel, Hutson says, "Look at the Davenport, the Lusso, the Ridpath." It's November, he says, not a peak hotel month, and yet "they're all booked out."

In addition, Hutson's favorite word seems to be "different." The Montvale will be "different," he says, compared to anything else Spokane has to offer. A little hipper, a little fresher -- a little smaller, something he thinks could lead to its ultimate success.

In a cozier hotel environment, he says, the Montvale will be able to respond to the needs of individual guests. Just scored a big business deal? Half a bottle of Catacombs champagne, on us. It's your anniversary? You may find a bouquet of flowers at your door.

"We don't want to meet people's needs," says Hutson. "We want to exceed people's expectations before they even know what to expect."

Who Gives a Crap? -- SANDPOINT -- Rumor has it that the local water and sewer district wants to throw a sewer pipe into the middle of the Pend Oreille River. Activists upset with the idea of a poop chute mucking up their river have pointed out what they see as a number of flaws with the design -- including the cost of the project, complications with pending permit processes and the possibly heinous biological effects of the pipeline.

First, however, they're trying to stretch the window for public comment until Jan. 28 (the current deadline is Nov. 26), citing the busy-ness of the holidays as a damper to public input. To find out how you can help, contact Clean Rivers at (208) 255-5260, or the Southside Water and Sewer District at (208) 263-5337.

Painting the Town Pink -- SPOKANE -- When you think of gay hot spots in America, you might think of San Francisco, Vermont, even Portland. But Spokane? Probably not. The Inland Northwest Business Alliance, however, is looking to change that. They'll be hosting a community workshop on creating a visible gay community in the 'Kan from 1-3 pm on Saturday, Nov. 20, at the Phase I Classroom Building Auditorium on the WSU Spokane campus.

Publication date: 11/18/04

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About The Author

Joel Smith

Joel Smith is the media editor for The Inlander. In that position, he manages and directs and edits all copy for the website, the newspaper and all other special publications. A former staff writer, he has reported on local and state politics, the environment, urban development and culture, Spokane's...