Monday, December 19, 2016

More on stealth resort hotels

                                 Food for thought:                                                                     
St. Helena of today is not necessarily tomorrow's

 From Nose's local correspondent:
The Private I

    As to St. Helena, and the three responses to the Request for Proposals for resort developments, none of the three qualify under the City's General Plan which does not permit formula/chain/brand operations. All three are five star resort proposals that expect high occupancy from the outset.  This isn't possible for a start-up and stand-alone independent operation, only a brand/chain operation with international marketing clout.
    As to HRV [Hotel Partners], where Koch, Pritzker and Hall Financial Group are concerned:
    1.  HRV's plan for Main Street (current site of St. Helena's City Hall and Police Department), the plan abuts one of their buildings to our fire department. In the process, it eliminates the 10 parking spaces needed by our volunteer fire fighters! In addition, the plan is 3-story construction that is "out-sized" for our city, disproportionate.
    2.  Aside from foregoing, I don't know how HRV would keep their underground parking area dry, as this is a high water table area. For the same reason, the high school couldn't construct any underground parking  During period of heavy rain, people with basements in areas within blocks of City Hall have to use pumps to clear water from their basements.
    3.  As to ownership, Koch, Pritzker, with Hall Financial Group providing construction financing only, there have been questions about Koch. However, it is John Pritzker who operates an international hotel management company that disqualifies the project ... a brand operation .... with his Commune Hotels. Hall Financial Group has some foreign investment capital which would be another concern, unless cleared by the Federal government, which just found that problem and changed ownership of the building at Las Alcobas, as well as management from Starwood (recently acquired by Marriott). Las Alcobas will retain its name, but that's about it. The hotel operator is U.S. based and provides secure facilities.
    4.  As to HMS, presenter said it is a 5 star plan and said no final decision has been made about which "brand" would operate the resort, but tossed out "one like Rosewood."  Again, not permitted here.
    5.  Kelly Foster with Bald Mountain Development has developed other resort projects for Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts, again not permitted. His Calistoga project was stealth... and when questioned about whether or not he was developing the project for Four Seasons, he said no, while Duffy Keys, who has worked for Four Seasons and was leasing B Cellars on the project site (Silver Rose), said it is a Four Seasons. After approval, Kelly announced his project was a Four Seasons but would have to use a different name so that it doesn't appear to violate Calistoga's General Plan.  He would have the same in mind for St. Helena.
    All three are literally "stealth" operations like the two resorts in Calistoga approved in 2010 - 2011 that have gone nowhere... Diamond Hills and Bald Mountain's Silver Rose project.
    There has been a lot of interest in Napa County by investment bankers. The last crowd came and went Nov. 1 - 3, more than 100 with J.P. Morgan Chase Manhattan, that flew in "without prior reservations at hotels or for dinners" so people at various hotels and restaurants were scrambling to secure places for them. In other words, this wasn't a pre-planned conference, rather intended to be a quiet junket to check out the valley's hotels and restaurants.
    Brookfield purchased Villagio and Vintage Inn in Yountville last April. It is managed by the same company that will manage Las Alcobas.  
    City of St. Helena's "depletion" of water reserves (financial reserves) appears to be based on the fact that it costs us $3.52 per hcf to treat our own water, but we are obligated to purchase water from the City of Napa (46% of our needs) at $4.69 per hcf. The information is in a Rate Study recently released to the public. This is a deal arranged by St. Helena Mayor Alan Galbraith... citing the potential for drought as the reason to change the water deal with Napa,  when in fact it has been their intention to develop resort hotels all over St. Helena and Napa water would be helpful to keep these resorts booked with Napa water on hand. 

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