A new hotel coming to Harvard Avenue will likely be a Best Western, or more specifically, a Vib — intended to be pronounced with a long “i” as in vibe. The “stylish, urban” boutique hotel from the big brand will be just around the corner from Capitol Hill Station and could be the first of similar projects if zoning changes come to pass.
The new building on Harvard between Howell and Denny has been in the works for more than a year, and is now about halfway through the design and permitting process, said Jon Courter, a member of the ownership group.
Along the way, the project has gotten a bit smaller. Initially it had been planned for four stories of hotel, topped by three stories of residential units. But in an effort to make the rooms feel more spacious, the developers decided to lop off the top floor of residential units and have higher ceilings on each of six remaining floors.
“Every inch, every half-inch really matters in height,” Courter said. “We want people to say it’s small, but it’s well-designed.”
The new plan calls for 58 guest rooms for the hotel, and 28 efficiency style apartments.
The hotel portion of the project will operate under the Vib name, a fairly new brand developed by Best Western. The company describes the brand as a stylish, urban boutique hotel.
Coulter and his group, partners Rod McClaskey and Terry Boyle, will own and operate the hotel under the Vib name in what’s basically a franchise model. Coulter insists, however, that they will be very active in their management of the property. He wants to ensure the area is kept clean and well-lit enough that the guests feel safe.
“It will be seen, every day, by an owner,” he said.
They are planning on renting hotel rooms at a relatively low price point for the fairly small (300 square feet, give or take) rooms. The group is betting guests would rather spend their time exploring the neighborhood, and only really use the room for sleeping, so there won’t be a big demand for a lot of space. Though, catering to the younger crowd, Coulter said they plan to have the fastest wifi in town.
The new building will also have a rooftop deck, open both to hotel guests and residents.
The project lists 15 parking spots in the permit, though Coulter was unsure of the exact number that will ultimately be built in the underground garage. He was also unsure of the split of the available parking for residents or hotel guests. He said they expect most, if not all, of the spots to be for the permanent residents. The parking lot access will be from Harvard.
Construction is a ways off so don’t start planning for a new place to stow your in-laws just yet. Current planning calls for a late 2018 start. Coulter said he expects they will finish the permitting process by then, but that’s not the only factor – they’d also like the new buildings around Capitol Hill Station to be open.
“We love Capitol Hill becoming way more dense,” he said.
Coulter expects most hotel guests will be arriving via the light rail, and would rather they be greeted by a more vibrant set of buildings instead of empty lots and cyclone fencing.
The development around the station will bring 400 apartments and 59,000 square feet of retail space to the area. The plan passed through the development review phase in October. Construction could begin as early as next spring and parts of the project could open by late 2019.
Once the Capitol Hill Station project starts construction, it will help Coulter and his group set their timeline.
Meanwhile, more, even larger hotel projects could be lined up in the future. If Mandatory Housing Affordability rezoning around Broadway is approved, new 75-foot height limits could include changes that will would allow seven-story buildings with commercial use throughout.