Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

"Pullman firm to design WSU hotel; Duane Brelsford's Corporate Pointe Developers will take lead on $20 million conference center project"

Congratulations to WSU for supporting a local business. And congratulations to Duane Brelsford, Jr. and his partners. They earned the win. Now the speculation begins as to what company will operate the hotel. From today's Moscow-Pullman Daily News:
Pullman-based Corporate Pointe Developers has been chosen to design a hotel and conference center on the Washington State University campus.

Ryan Ruffcorn, a project manager for WSU Capital Planning and Development, said Corporate Pointe President Duane Brelsford and his team were selected from the pool of four finalists because of their impressive presentation to the university.

The fact that Brelsford and his team have ties to Pullman also was a benefit. In addition to Brelsford, the project design will include general contractor Bob Askins, Tom Sheldon from the architecture firm GGLO of Seattle, and Yogi Hutsen of Coastal Hotel Group. Brelsford, Sheldon and Askins all are Pullman High School graduates.

"They're all invested in WSU and Pullman," Ruffcorn said. "They have a good grasp on the area - they understand the market."

Ruffcorn said the university began to investigate the need for a hotel and conference center in 2002. Independent analysis identified a need for such a development and a campus group survey indicated many conferences and professional seminars happen outside of Pullman because of a lack of facilities.

Ruffcorn said the research results were received before the Schweitzer Engineering Laboratory Event Center was constructed in 2006.

"We're excited about it," he said. "After five years, we're ready to get something rolling."

Brelsford said the approximately $20 million project will likely be constructed on university property on Fairway Drive and include a 120-room hotel and 20,000-square-foot conference center. Construction isn't expected to begin until late 2008 or early 2009.

Brelsford hopes for his company to own and manage the hotel and conference center upon its completion and lease the land from the university. He added that he soon plans to launch a marketing analysis on a group of condominiums proposed for an adjacent property, which may draw WSU alumni to "come back to Pullman and participate in the amenities."

Brelsford said his company's long-term plan for the project probably worked in its favor. Companies competing with Corporate Pointe included: Spokane-based ANA Construction and Development; Concord Eastridge, a company with headquarters in Scottsdale, Ariz., and Arlington, Va.; and Chicago-based Johnson & Partners Development and Co. in partnership with Columbia Hospitality in Seattle.

"We're not just here to do it and turn it over to a flagship company to operate it," Brelsford said. "We know there's a market out there and we want to address that market as soon as possible."

Ruffcorn said the university has not yet made any funding or operations decisions regarding the project. University officials will work with Corporate Pointe to draft a letter of intent, which will bind the two entities together as far as scope and vision of the project, followed by the initial design phase.

Any other discussions regarding possible land leases or other opportunities on the property will come later, though Ruffcorn said condominiums are something the university "sees as a possibility" in the project.

"We're open to just trying to find the right relationship," he said. "We'll just see how this all plays out."

Brelsford said the hotel and conference center will be in an attractive location, especially with the university's 18-hole golf course, tennis arena and recreation center within walking distance.

"We're looking to attract a lot of conferences. We're trying to keep those local," he said. "I've always had a love for the hotel industry. It's fun to get back into it."

Corporate Pointe has built about 1,400 apartments, 150,000 square feet of office and retail space and theaters that house more than 40 movie screens in Pullman, Lewiston and Spokane. Before Brelsford began developing, he was a project engineer and project manager for the construction of nine Embassy Suites hotels and oversaw the renovations of two inns.

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