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Development teams vie for chance to build hotel at Chambers Bay

Rendering of project from team led by Dan Absher, of Puyallup-based Absher Construction Co., and Dan Putnam.
Rendering of project from team led by Dan Absher, of Puyallup-based Absher Construction Co., and Dan Putnam. Chambers Bay Development LLC

Pierce County officials are once again looking to initiate private development of a resort-style hotel at Chambers Bay.

Two development teams have submitted proposals to build a $45 million to $50 million project that includes the hotel, restaurant and clubhouse adjacent to Chambers Bay golf course overlooking Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountain range.

One of those teams is led by Dan Absher, of Puyallup-based Absher Construction Co., and Dan Putnam, father to two professional golfers. They’ve tapped iconic Seattle restauranteur Tom Douglas to develop a 200-seat restaurant on site — his first restaurant outside of Seattle.

The other team is led by Florida businessman William Haberman, who enlisted Robert Trent Jones II to act as special consultant. Jones designed Chambers Bay golf course, transforming it from a quarry to an 18-hole, championship course that hosted the 2015 U.S. Open.

Before Pierce County Executive Pat McCarthy and her facilities team chooses who should move forward, she wants the public to weigh in.

An open house is planned 6 to 7 p.m. Sept. 8 at the county Environmental Services Building in University Place. Representatives from the two development teams will showcase their plans and answer questions.

It will be the only opportunity for the public to see the proposals before McCarthy and her team make a decision. Both proposals are available at bit.ly/chambershotel.

The Pierce County Council got its first look at the proposals Tuesday.

The projects are similar and meet development guidelines laid out in a master site plan that governs future development of the 930-acre property. That includes development of active and passive uses, such as public trails and access to the shoreline.

Each proposal calls for building into the hillside where the current clubhouse stands overlooking Chambers Bay. This would reduce the effect on views of the water from the entrance of the park and Grandview Drive West.

Led by Absher and Putnam, Chambers Bay Development LLC proposed a 60- to 80-room boutique hotel with 5,000-square-foot meeting space and spa facility, Douglas’ restaurant and outdoor facilities such as a public plaza and enhanced trails, according to conceptual plans.

Plans call for up to 80 “golf villas” for long-term rental opportunities and could open before the hotel.

Future phased development could include more villas along Grandview Drive and the potential for residential housing elsewhere if market conditions allow.

Valiant Washington’s plans also call for detached units as part of its 124-unit hotel, a 20,000-square-foot restaurant and 30,000-square-foot clubhouse and view restaurant. It would offer space for a golf academy, a practice facility and an open-air plaza.

The buildings would be integrated into existing surroundings through sustainable building techniques and natural features such as a green roof that uses plants to absorb rainfall.

Neither project limits public access to the larger park property, said Parks and Recreation Director Tony Tipton.

A previous development proposed for the site by California developer Robert Sonnenblick called for the addition of a 220-room hotel and a second 18-hole golf course on the south end of the property.

Concerns were raised by the public and county officials about the size of the project, including a group of dog owners who have fought to see the county build a permanent off-leash dog park on the land.

The county asked Sonnenblick to scale back the project. Sonnenblick ultimately decided it wasn’t financially feasible and parted ways with the county.

The two most recent proposals are more in line with the county’s vision for the site, Tipton said.

That includes creating a project that complements Chambers Bay golf course, takes advantage of the property’s natural features, including its panoramic views, and integrates with other public amenities such as walking trails and open fields, he said.

The county also asked for a development that would rival hotels near other championship-caliber golf courses across the country and a project that would support future national golf championships at Chambers Bay.

Both proposals meet these demands, Tipton said.

The one area where they deviate from the master site plan is the number of hotel rooms proposed. The master plan calls for a 124-room facility. The development groups believe that to be financially successful, they need up to 160 rooms, Tipton said.

“We want this development to be successful, and we need to be cognizant of what they need,” he told the council.

Allowing the additional rooms shouldn’t result in a significant change in building height or footprint, he said.

Chambers Bay Development LLC has tapped KemperSports, the company under contract to operate Chambers Bay golf course, Columbia Hospitality and Seattle architect firm, GGLO Architects for its project.

Valiant Washington has enlisted Escalante Golf out of Texas to handle clubhouse operations. A hospitality manager, architect and builder are still to be named.

Brynn Grimley: 253-597-8467, @bgrimley

Chambers development open house

What: Open house to view conceptual plans for hotel development at Chambers Bay

When: 6-7 p.m., Sept. 8

Where: Environmental Services Building, 9850 64th St. W., University Place

More: To see proposals, see bit.ly/chambershotel

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