Roseburg council approves spending on 'boutique hotel' study

Roseburg city staff originally planned to entice a high-end hotel to the old Safeway area in downtown Roseburg, though councilors are now looking at the broader central business district.

APRIL EHRLICH/The News-Review

Roseburg councilors agreed to spend up to $20,000 on a study to see if Roseburg could attract more tourists with a high-end hotel.

At the same meeting Monday night, they agreed to begin evaluating a tax incentive to entice a potential developer.

The moves came as a slap in the face to the Hanna Family, who broke ground last week on a new Hampton Inn on Mulholland Drive. The family owns and operates the Windmill Inn next door.

“We’re investing a large amount of money in a new hotel, which will be very nice,” Windmill Inn manager Alan Pike told councilors. “I think it’s something that’s hard to feel good about now. We just had a groundbreaking on Friday. It’s difficult seeing things like this.”

Hotels in Roseburg collect an 8 percent transient tax from customers, which they give to the city of Roseburg to spend on tourism-related projects. Councilors voted to consider allowing a new high-end hotel to keep part or all of the tax.

“That would seem a little anti-competitive,” Bruce Hanna said Tuesday. “What would happen if all the hotels got their money back? Then there wouldn’t be any money to spend on tourism.”

City staff and The Partnership For Economic Development have spent almost two years and $100,000 of grant dollars working with a consulting firm trying to figure out how Roseburg could attract “high-end tourists.” They ultimately determined that a boutique hotel would do the trick.

A boutique hotel has rooms that cost upwards of $200, City Manager Lance Colley told councilors, and might offer amenities such as a restaurant, wine tasting and various shops.

In order to attract a boutique hotel developer, however, the city may need to create an incentive package, he said.

“Based on the work done to date, it appears that there is interest in the Roseburg community, but we are not currently in a position to support higher end lodging without at least some incentive that could help deliver a better return on investment,” he wrote in the council’s agenda item summary. “The preferred site chosen is at the former Rite-Aid/Safeway property in downtown.”

The preferred location was later changed to what the city is calling the Central Business District.

The Partnership needs an additional $40,000 to complete the remaining scope of work, including mapping out incentive ideas and contacting potential developers. The Partnership requested half of that from the county, and the other half from the city.

“This is a high priority economic opportunity,” Colley wrote.

Councilors voted 5-2 to pull $20,000 out of the city’s economic development fund, where there now remains $140,000. Councilors Steve Kaser and John McDonald voted against the idea. McDonald had the lone vote against looking into the potential tax incentive.

Kaser said he was apprehensive about tax incentives for private businesses. McDonald said his vote was swayed by Pike’s testimony.

“Are we rushing this?” McDonald asked councilors. “Would the money be better spent elsewhere?”

Pike said it does not make financial sense for a business to need an incentive package in order to develop in Roseburg.

“If a private business needs a subsidy in order for it to even be attractive for someone to develop, it may not have a great business model,” he said.

He added that although he would not mind additional competition, he feared that lack of tourists in the winter months will drive prices down. His hotel rates reach up to $200 in the summer, he said, but prices plummet as vacancy rates drop to 50 percent.

Mayor Larry Rich said that after two years of work, he would like to see where the evaluation project goes.

“We’ve come so far, let’s see the final product,” he said.

Betsy Cunningham, of Roseburg, spoke against the idea. She is part of a group that is aiming to get a grocery store established in the old Safeway building downtown or somewhere in southeast Roseburg.

“Really, are you kidding yourselves? Are you really kidding yourselves?” she said. “That people are going to come to downtown Roseburg and look at the back of the Rodeway Inn, to stay here in a boutique hotel for $200?”

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City Government Reporter

April Ehrlich covers city government for The News-Review. She can be contacted at 541-957-4202 or aehrlich@nrtoday.com. Follow her on Twitter @AprilEhrlich.

(17) comments

Mogie

We travel several times a year to Eugene to go and eat at Red Lobster. Would go to a local seafood place a lot. Need more things that our locals would spend their hard earned money on (don't delude yourself into thinking that a few tourist dollars would do much). Why not buses run by local wine producers so their customers could drink and not worry about driving? Art exhibits that feature finger food and drinks. What about a local comedy club that would feature local wannabes? We don't have much of a venue for local bands why not change that? You would be surprised by the amount of local talent (singers and musicians) that live in the area. Why not local movie theaters that would feature different movies on different days (westerns, comedys, romance, sci-fi, etc.)? Poker and pot lounge (yum).

nr77

Most old Safeways likely get renovated into strip malls.Some great ideas for Roseburg might include a real ice cream restaurant, oregon wine shop, grocery store, prime seafood restaurant, graffiti type nostalgic restaurant, urgent care, smoke shop bar, or farmer's market. Another thing we lack that would be a big success is a toy store, like TOYS R US. Douglas County has better ways to spend our limited tax dollars than supporting the City for a boutique study. How about using it for enticing some other reasonable tourist attractions that the local people can also utilize and support through common needs. My first choice to entice tourists and generate local use would be to get rid of Parks parking fees. The county could subsidize their own program instead of the city's, this one would have been great. Our family quit going to the parks when they started charging. Isn't that a crappy deal. Parks should be free, to tourists and locals alike. There are a lot of low income people who have lived here and paid taxes all their lives that simply can't afford these costs. We helped pay for these parks, and now they want more. I think both a $260 ticket and a $130 ticket are absolutely ridiculous. Great PR for running off tourists!!! And locals...

PickNGrin

Just read in another News-Review article that "Roseburg city staff and The Partnership for Economic Development have spent two years and about $100,000 working with a consulting firm on how to attract high-end tourists to Roseburg. They hope the boutique hotel would accomplish that." All I can say is Wow, I sure hope they can show some results for that kind of money. Perhaps some town hall meetings and listening sessions among local folks who know the area could've generated many creative ideas at only a fraction of this cost.

PickNGrin

I've nothing against nice motels that offer associated amenities like restaurants, shops, live music, etc. However, it's a bit of a "chicken and egg" situation. Common sense dictates that a city should first encourage and support development of primary and secondary tourist attractions before boutique accommodations are desired by the traveling public. At present, a few I-5 travelers might stay at a "boutique" place, but they'll be disappointed by the downtown unless we instead focus on providing things like 1) thriving stores for tourists, 2) riverfront nature walk, 3) gallery openings, 4) historical walking tours, 5) library, 6) farmer's market, 7) music concerts, 8) wine-tasting, 9) museum, 10) murals, 11) parks, 12) outdoor sculptures, etc. etc. etc.

Mogie

Excellent points!

DCfisher

Use the money to make DC parks free to park once again.

deriak

With the city budget so tight and library closing, $20,000 for a study seems a huge waste of resource; ie. Money. Why such a high cost to just discuss whether a downtown hotel is a good idea? Makes no sense. Wasting our money on nothing.

just me

"Councilors voted 5-2 to pull $20,000 out of the city’s economic development fund, where there now remains $140,000. Councilors Steve Kaser and John McDonald voted against the idea. McDonald had the lone vote against looking into the potential tax incentive." there is five aint getting my vote fer shure

bohica48

Bad idea! Bad location! Traffic issues, transient issues, slow freight train issues,
and the lingering smell of stale urine are NOT big selling points for a $200.00 a
night stay. All it would take is ONE bad experience with any of the above, and a
bum review on social media (Yelp, etc) and this bad idea would become a DEAD
idea. Another vacant building would blend right in.

TLH-ALB1

These people on the council must be loyal customers of the CannaKIng.....

Because my first thought was....WHAT THE HECK ARE YOU PEOPLE SMOKIN'...?!?!

Mogie

Hehehehe ... good one!

CannaKing

LOL..... I BEG TO DIFFER..... The people that come to my store HAVE a heck of alot more common sense then most!

CannaKing

LOL..... What in the WORLD are these people thinking? Where in the heck did all the common sense in this world go? Alan pike HATES any form of competition and uses his political "leverage" by inserting his 2 cents every chance to the city council everytime his little pink spot gets hurt. SICK OF TPTB in this town that think they are running things, when in reality the only thing they are doing is running things INTO THE GROUND.... Oy Vey!

Mogie

If I were a tourist I would rather spend my money in a place that was clean (have you seen all the trash lately?), well lit, safe and nice roads (at least fill the pot holes). "Roseburg councilors agreed to spend up to $20,000 on a study to see if Roseburg could attract more tourists with a high-end hotel." $20,000 would fill a lot of pot holes.

just me

i have to agree with cunningham the back of the rodeway inn is not very scenic. not to mention it has been known for trouble. i sure wouldnt want to stay at that boutique for 200 a pop..

Mogie

"Betsy Cunningham, of Roseburg, spoke against the idea. She is part of a group that is aiming to get a grocery store established in the old Safeway building downtown or somewhere in southeast Roseburg." Seems like a place to buy food is a little more important to people then a high end hotel. People have to eat everyday but using a hotel is something most people only do once a year. Why not cultivate more things that would make Douglas County unique? Wildlife Safari makes us one of a kind. 7 Feathers makes us one of kind. Another hotel makes us as unique as another pizza joint in town. A poker room would be a nice addition. A warm place for people to go and stay out of trouble. Only three times in my life have I ever paid more then $100 for a motel room (it is only a place to sleep and shower). What about a place for people to go and smoke or vape pot? Show movies like Up In Smoke...lol.

CannaKing

Mogie, I love the way that you think! Know that I am TRYING MY BEST to help make roseburg more of a tourist stop.... Thinking that the council should stop with this "fools errand" and just pay me instead! ;) High end hotel.....lol.....$200 a night.....lol. How delusional!

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