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County picks hotel developer for Chambers Bay property

The proposal from Chambers Bay Development LLC was selected by Pierce County Executive Pat McCarthy as the first pick for how to develop the county-owned property. McCarthy hopes to reach an agreement with the developers before the end of the year for how to move the project forward.
The proposal from Chambers Bay Development LLC was selected by Pierce County Executive Pat McCarthy as the first pick for how to develop the county-owned property. McCarthy hopes to reach an agreement with the developers before the end of the year for how to move the project forward.

Chambers Bay could soon be home to the first Tom Douglas restaurant built outside of Seattle.

Pierce County Executive Pat McCarthy made the announcement Monday to the Pierce County Council that she chose a team of local developers to build a resort-style hotel around the Chambers Bay golf course in University Place.

Douglas’ plans for a bar and grill “was a big draw” for McCarthy and her team of six who studied the two proposals for development on the county-owned land, she said.

But ultimately it was the overall cohesiveness of the Chambers Bay Development team and its thoughtful plans for enhancing public amenities at the site that lifted the proposal above the other development team, McCarthy said Monday morning.

“I think they had a more cohesive group already predetermined,” McCarthy said. “With the county you want to know who all your players are. That provides less risk at the end of the day.”

Led by Dan and Tom Absher, of Puyallup-based Absher Construction, and Dan Putnam, who previously was CEO of structural engineering firm PCS Structural Solutions, Chambers Bay Development used the local angle in its pitch. Also included is Columbia Hospitality, Kemper Sports, GGLO Architects and Douglas.

Putnam and the Abshers say they view the project as a legacy, something they would remain a part of after construction.

“I think they understand the Pacific Northwest,” said county Parks and Recreation director Tony Tipton. “The end product will transform into something this community can be proud of.”

The plans are conceptual, which means architectural features and smaller details are likely change as the project moves through the permitting process.

Already McCarthy and her team have proposed a major change to the plans: No residential housing on the property.

“The public responded pretty clearly that this was something that they did not want to see happen to the property,” McCarthy said of Chambers Bay Development’s plans to add villas along Grandview Avenue above the 8th fairway.

Chambers Bay Development had proposed building the villas along Grandview and additional housing near the southern portion of the 930-acre Chambers Creek Properties site, if market conditions warranted.

“It’s not in the current master site plan to have those current units in either one of those locations,” Tipton said. “I think the focus should be on doing phase one, just absolutely the best development we can do. Make a real quality project that we can enjoy.”

Under the revised plan, the developers still would build 80 villas below the 80-room hotel. The county is deciding whether they could be long-term rentals.

Other components of the project include a 5,000-square-foot event space, 200-seat Douglas restaurant and six spa-treatment rooms. The development team made a point to include public amenities in its project, including adding a public overlook and improvements to the existing trail near the main entrance to the park.

Plans also call for the development of certain improvements at the southern end of the park near the wastewater treatment plant. It’s unknown whether those would be done if the developers don’t build housing in the area.

Beyond offering the first hotel in University Place, the proposal also calls for golf academies, camps and clinics to appeal to golfers looking to improve their game.

For those uninterested in golf, the development team hopes to offer another place for people to eat that takes advantage of the spectacular views of Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains.

The team also hopes to create a secondary tourism market of food lovers who would come to University Place to participate in culinary classes put on by Douglas and his restaurant.

While Chambers Bay Development is the preferred choice, nothing is final until a lease development agreement is reached for how the site should be developed. McCarthy would like to see the terms of the agreement finalized and approved by the County Council by the end of the year.

If the county and developers can’t agree, McCarthy would pursue a contract with Valiant Washington LCC, the other team interested in developing the site.

Brynn Grimley: 253-597-8467, @bgrimley

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