Long-postponed hotel construction begins at Point Ruston

A retaining wall is the only portion of the planned Silver Cloud Hotel that has been completed at the Point Ruston waterfront development. The complex at rear includes The Century Apartments and Condominiums as well as restaurants and other businesses.
A retaining wall is the only portion of the planned Silver Cloud Hotel that has been completed at the Point Ruston waterfront development. The complex at rear includes The Century Apartments and Condominiums as well as restaurants and other businesses.

It’s been a long wait — some eight years since the project was first announced — but Bellevue’s Silver Cloud Inns and Hotels has begun construction of its second Tacoma-area hotel at a water-view site at Point Ruston.

A long-running recession and disputes over land-use permitting with the City of Ruston delayed the construction of the 180-room hotel until this month.

Now, with the local economy healing and the Point Ruston developer’s dispute with Ruston settled, construction work has started on one of the centerpiece buildings in the billion-dollar-plus mixed-use Point Ruston project.

The hotel work is the first major hotel construction in the Tacoma area since the downtown Holiday Inn Express and Suites opened two years ago near the University of Washington Tacoma.

The 180-room hotel is the fifth major building to rise on the former site of the Asarco copper smelter near Point Defiance Park. When the hotel opens in the spring of 2018 it will join a multi-story apartment building, a condominium complex, a mixed-use theater, an apartment and restaurant structure and a multi-level parking garage on the 67-acre site.

James Weymouth, majority owner of Silver Cloud Inns and Hotels, said the hotel will include at least one restaurant, a 5,000-square-foot ballroom, a group of smaller meeting rooms, an upper-story pool, an exercise room and a garage.

“We’re still in the final planning stage of the project,” said Weymouth, “so some of the details are not completely settled.”

The Silver Cloud Point Ruston will be the second Tacoma-area property for the 10-hotel Northwest chain. Silver Cloud operates an existing hotel over the waters of Commencement Bay at Old Town in Tacoma.

The hotel is sited on one side of a central plaza with a programmable fountain as its centerpiece. Across from the fountain in the development’s Century building is the recently opened Century Point Ruston and XD Theatre featuring reclining theater chairs and assigned seating. That building also will house several restaurants opening within the next few months. Among them is a sushi restaurant, a burger place and a seafood restaurant, Wild Fin.

Many of the hotel rooms will have views of Commencement Bay, the Olympic Mountains and Vashon and Maury islands.

Adjacent to the hotel is a multi-story parking garage for theater and restaurant patrons. On that garage’s top level, Point Ruston managing partner Mike Cohen plans a high-end supermarket. Because the garage is sited on sloping ground, that top level will feature access from nearby streets without having to wind through the garage’s lower levels.

The Silver Cloud will enter the Tacoma hotel market at a time when several other hotels are on the drawing board. Oregon’s McMenamins recently announced it will soon begin conversion of the former Elks Lodge in downtown Tacoma into an entertainment venue and hotel. McMenamins also was named the winning bidder to convert the nearby Old City Hall into a boutique hotel property.

Meanwhile, near the Tacoma Convention and Trade Center farther south in the downtown core, a Chinese investment group has proposed building a 24-story, 300-room high-rise convention hotel and condominium complex. The Chinese firm is now recruiting investors for the project.

And on the near-downtown Thea Foss Waterway, Bellingham’s Hollander Investments is moving steadily ahead with planning for a two-hotel and office complex on a site on the waterway’s west side adjacent to Esplanade Condominiums and the Thea’s Landing Apartments.

Mark Hollander, the investment company president, said he hasn’t yet set a ground-breaking date for the first of the two hotels, a nine-story Marriott Residence Inn. That 104-room property will feature extended-stay rooms.

Hollander, who fought a multi-year court battle with the owners of Tacoma’s Hotel Murano over permits to build the new structure, said he wants to wait and see how the other hotel projects develop before giving the Foss Waterway project the go-ahead. If the convention center hotel is built as a luxury product, and the McMenamins caters to travelers who enjoy historic buildings, then there will be room in the market for the Marriott and an adjacent hotel, he said.

Hollander’s company is now occupied with creating a new hotel in Astoria, Oregon, at the mouth of the Columbia River.

Back in Tacoma, Hollander’s company bought ground-level commercial space in the nearby Esplanade condominiums. He hopes to lease that space to a restaurant or other user soon. The key to that lease will be the ability to provide parking, Hollander said. With the hotel site available, he could provide that parking either in a surface lot or in the hotel garage.

Silver Cloud’s Weymouth said he doesn’t fear competition from the other planned Tacoma properties. His hotel, he said, will cater to a different client than the other hotels.

If the planned hotels open in 2018 or so, the addition of new capacity could soften room rates, he said. But eventually as the city grows, those rooms will be absorbed and rates will normalize.

John Gillie: 253-597-8663