An agreement between Pierce County and a California developer to build a resort-style hotel at Chambers Bay has expired. Now the county wants new developers to come forward.
“It’s just a shame. They’re just doing a very small development compared to what we saw as a tremendous opportunity,” Los Angeles developer Bob Sonnenblick said. “There are very few places left from a real estate developer’s viewpoint that are really special pieces of land. I’m telling you, this is one of them.”
Last February, Sonnenblick presented plans to build a second 18-hole golf course and a 220-room resort-style hotel on the University Place property. His project included meeting rooms and a conference center.
Following the U.S. Open championship in June, the county requested Sonnenblick scale back the development. That included a request to eliminate the golf course.
Despite saying in October he would submit a new proposal, Sonnenblick ultimately decided it didn’t make sense.
They’re just doing a very small development compared to what we saw as a tremendous opportunity.
Los Angeles developer Bob Sonnenblick
“This was a site that would make an impact,” he said. “What they’re now planning is a very small, inconsequential development that we’re not interested in.”
Despite Sonnenblick’s position that a project without a second golf course “will never make sense,” Pierce County leaders believe the county-owned Chambers Bay golf course and surrounding park is enough.
“We are not looking to just come in and put up a regular hotel project,” said Tony Tipton, Pierce County Parks and Recreation director. “We want something that is tailored to the unique attributes that is Chambers Bay.”
That includes stunning views of south Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains and proximity to the course, walking trails and waterfront access, he said.
After three failed attempts to develop the land since 2005, the county is taking a different approach this time.
The county wants qualifications first, instead of development proposals, Tipton said.
We want something that is tailored to the unique attributes that is Chambers Bay.
Tony Tipton, Pierce County Parks and Recreation director
The request is being made now in an attempt to ride the wave of publicity the U.S. Open generated for the region.
“It’s good for us to hit while the iron’s hot,” deputy county executive Kevin Phelps said in a Jan. 5 interview before leaving for a job as the city manager of Glendale, Arizona.
Ultimately, it was the U.S. Open that prompted the county to request a smaller development on the southern portion of its 930-acre property.
The county hopes to host future U.S. Opens and other golf championships at Chambers Bay and wants to leave room to allow for the staging of such a large-scale event, Tipton said.
Tipton expects the request for qualifications to be released by the end of the month. Summer is the earliest the county could ask for development proposals.
Chambers Bay sees bigger out of state audience
More out-of-state golfers played at Chambers Bay in the second half of 2015 than the year prior, according to recently released figures from Pierce County.
Following the U.S. Open championship held June 15-21 in University Place, the percentage of rounds played by out-of-state golfers reached 41 percent. That is more than double the course’s historical average, according to county statistics.
In 2014, the course had visitors from 12 states and Canada. Those numbers jumped to 45 states and 13 countries after the tournament.