Of the two development teams vying for the chance to develop Chambers Bay, one is looking to build a legacy project and the other boasts a résumé of luxury development at golf courses across the country.
Both teams recently had a chance to pitch their plans to the public at an open house in University Place that drew a crowd of nearly 250 people.
Several people who attended expressed general support for development of the site — a contrast to the opposition that emerged two years ago after a California developer proposed building a 220-room hotel and second 18-hole golf course on the southern portion of the Pierce County-owned park property.
University Place resident Marnie Nickel said the previous proposal was intrusive, but the latest developers seem to understand the value the community places on use of Chambers Creek Regional Park.
Never miss a local story.
Nickel and her husband Adam live off Grandview Drive, which runs parallel to the park. While she said she slightly favored the development proposed by a team of local developers, Nickel said both proposals were “great designs.”
“Both would benefit the community,” she said.
The local team is Chambers Bay Development LLC. Partners include Dan Absher and Tom Absher, of Puyallup-based Absher Construction, and Dan Putnum, who previously was CEO of structural engineering firm PCS Structural Solutions. Kemper Sports, the current operator under contract to run Chambers Bay golf course, is also part of the team, as is Seattle-based Columbia Hospitality, which operates several golf courses in this state and others.
Valiant Washington LLC is the other team competing for the job. Florida developer William Haberman heads the group. He is the managing member and president of two residential and resort properties tied to golf courses, one in Idaho and the other in North Carolina. Haberman has also helped develop multimillion dollar condominium resorts in Florida. He has teamed up with Texas-based Escalante Golf, which oversees operations of luxury golf properties from Florida to California.
Proposals from each team go toe-to-toe on everything from building design and public amenities to big-name partners.
Chambers Bay Development name-dropped iconic Seattle restauranteur Tom Douglas in its proposal, which included a signed letter from the chef who has spent 26 years cultivating a culinary following among his various Seattle restaurants.
He has never opened a restaurant outside the Emerald City — despite efforts of developers in cities like New York, Las Vegas and San Francisco to lure him — but the avid golfer wrote that the draw of Chambers Bay was too hard to resist.
Not to be outdone, Valiant Washington has tapped world-renowned golf course architect Robert Trent Jones Jr. as a consultant. Jones designed Chambers Bay golf course, transforming it from a gravel pit into an 18-hole links-style golf course. Three years after opening, it hosted the 2010 U.S. Amateur and later the 2015 U.S. Open.
Part of Jones’ involvement will include developing a miniature golf replica of the Chambers Bay course. The miniature course would be playable for everyone from serious golfers looking to improve their putting game to families and children, according to the proposal. The course would include real grass putting surfaces, bunkers and similar contours of the original course.
Both proposals call for development of a boutique-style hotel, clubhouse, restaurant and additional stand-alone units elsewhere on the property.
Neither development plans to exceed 200,000-square feet of total building space, and both promise to increase public access to the property through improving existing trails or by completing parts of the county’s “to-do” list detailed in its master site plan that is being updated. The plan outlines short- and long-term development plans for the 930-acre property.
Preliminary drawings from each team show a penchant for contemporary Pacific Northwest architecture with wood accents, clean lines and floor-to-ceiling windows facing the western exposure that overlooks Chambers Bay, the Gig Harbor peninsula and Olympic Mountains.
Each proposal calls for green roofs, meaning the buildings would have grass and other plants growing on top. This will help the buildings blend into the hillside and become part of the natural landscape, according to the plans.
Both projects will be built at the main entrance into the park, where the current restaurant is located. The buildings would cascade down the hillside, offering a staggered appearance and limiting view obstruction from Grandview Drive.
CHAMBERS BAY PROPOSAL
Chambers Bay Development proposed three phases for its development.
The first phase would include 80 villas for long-term rental to be finished before a proposed 80-room hotel. A 5,000-square-foot event space, 200-seat Tom Douglas restaurant and six spa-treatment rooms also would be built first. The villas are planned for midway down the hill between the park entrance and Central Meadow.
An overlook and improved trail would be part of the public amenities included in the first phase. Additional phases call for development of more villas along Grandview Drive and potentially on the lower section of the Chambers Creek site south of the wastewater treatment plant.
The team also has committed to adding public amenities to the southern portion of the park that presently is largely inaccessible.
“It was really our goal to enhance the public experience here,” said Putnam, a longtime University Place resident.
Putnam is a regular user of the county-owned park, he said. He watched Chambers Bay rise from the gravel pit. He also watched sons Andrew and Michael, both professional golfers, compete on the course — Andrew in the 2010 U.S. Amateur and Michael in the 2015 U.S. Open.
When the opportunity presented itself to submit plans to develop the site, Putnam said, “as the local guys, we thought if not now, then when?”
Beyond offering the first hotel in University Place, the Chambers Bay Development proposal includes plans to offer golf academies, camps and clinics to appeal to golfers looking to improve their game.
Along with creating a destination for golf enthusiasts, Putnam said the developers want to create a place for locals to gather and to cultivate a secondary tourism niche for foodies interested in culinary classes put on by Douglas.
The Putnams and Abshers see the development as a legacy project with the intent to keep their families involved long after the site is built, Putnam said.
VALIANT WASHINGTON PROPOSAL
Valiant Washington proposed building a “world-class lodge,” four-star hotel modeled after similar resorts at golf courses around the country. Referenced in the proposal were three resorts: Torrey Pines in California, Kiawah Island in South Carolina and Whistling Straits in Wisconsin.
The existing restaurant at the top of the hill would be replaced with a view restaurant and public-event pavilion. The new buildings would be similar in height to the current facilities.
A 124-room boutique-style hotel would be built into the hillside above the Ninth and 18th greens of the golf course. Between 10 to 15 detached units, or “casitas,” would offer more lodging options directly below the lodge about midway down the hill.
A clubhouse would be built even lower, overlooking the 18th green with sweeping views of the course. It would include a pro shop, bar and grill, locker rooms and more lodging units.
A “state-of-the-art” golf-teaching academy and training center is proposed near the practice facility built for the U.S. Open near the Central Meadow parking lot. It would include a two-tiered covered driving range. The center would be equipped for swing analysis, club fitting and realistic round simulation.
The proposal references prominent golf equipment and apparel manufacturer TaylorMade and its “performance lab” that analyzes professional golfers’ swings as an example. Valiant hints “one such manufacturer will make the training center at Chambers Bay its permanent headquarters for golf equipment and training,” according to its proposal.
Along with designing the miniature golf course, Jones would help with development of the clubhouse.
“This is light on the land and doesn’t impact the golf experience and the rest of the park,” Jones said of Valiant’s proposal.
He was eager to return to Pierce County, he said, and hopes to be part of the next stage of development for the Chambers property.
“I feel like I’m coming home,” the California resident said. “I’m really here for the county and the vision they had.”
Pierce County Executive Pat McCarthy is expected to select a proposal by the end of the month or start of October.
The county and developers would then negotiate a development agreement and begin the permitting process. The earliest construction could begin would be the end of next summer.
To see the full proposals visit bit.ly/chambershotel