OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

OSU FINALIZES PLANS FOR HILTON GARDEN INN ON CAMPUS

09/28/2001

CORVALLIS - After years of planning and countless delays, a new hotel planned on the southern edge of the Oregon State University campus has cleared its final hurdle, and construction is planned for next spring.

OSU officials announced on Friday that a new developer, Corvallis HGI, LCC, has been assigned the lease that originally was held by Larkspur Hospitality. Corvallis HGI, LCC includes Corvallis business leaders Jackson Cooper and Vern McDonald, as well as principals of A&A Construction of Spokane, Wash. They will take over plans to construct a Hilton Garden Inn adjacent to Reser Stadium.

"The Corvallis community and OSU have waited a long time for this to happen, and everyone involved is excited to see the light at the end of the tunnel," said Brian Thorsness, director of contracts for OSU. "We should have a first class Hilton facility ready by fall term of 2003."

The hotel, which will be up to four stories high, will be constructed on a 3.5-acre site on Western Boulevard in Corvallis and have between 110 and 156 rooms. It will feature an on-site restaurant offering breakfast, lunch and dinner; room service; a lounge area, and indoor pool and spa, and a gift shop featuring OSU merchandise.

The rooms will follow a Hilton pattern, offering on-demand movies, video games and interactive guest services, including high-speed Internet access.

It has taken nearly four years for the university to wade through a series of legal challenges to reach this phase of the project, Thorsness said, and during that time Larkspur Hospitality changed the emphasis of its developing activities, focusing on the Silicon Valley region of California near its corporate headquarters.

Cooper, a principal partner in Commercial Associates of Corvallis, approached Larkspur officials about having them assign the lease to Corvallis HGI, LLC - a proposal that was within the guidelines of the original agreement and one that met with OSU's approval.

"We are absolutely excited about this project because the Corvallis community stands to benefit in so many ways from having a Hilton Garden Inn on campus," Cooper said. "It will help the university attract more conferences and visitors to campus and that will give a shot in the arm to the business community. It's also gives a boost in prestige to the community.

"It says something to have the Hilton name in Corvallis," he added.

OSU has long sought the construction of a top hotel on campus as a way to attract major academic gatherings, including conferences, symposia and major lectures. The site of the hotel is just across Western Boulevard from both OSU's LaSells Stewart Center and the CH2M-Hill Alumni Center, which combine to offer some of the mid-valley's best conference facilities.

The Office of Conference and Special Events at OSU, which works with university faculty and staff to help them set up conferences, recently surveyed the campus community. The result: more than 50 percent of those surveyed said they would be more likely to host an event once the hotel is built.

"We also hear anecdotally from campus event planners every week that the lack of a hotel has precluded them from bring an event to campus," said Melanie Fahrenbruch, director of OSU's Office of Conferences and Special Events. "The new hotel, combined with the 90,000-square feet of facilities in LaSells Stewart Center and the CH2M-Hill Alumni Center, will put OSU among the top 20 universities in the U.S. for on-campus conference facilities."

The city of Corvallis also stands to gain from the hotel construction.

John Hope-Johnstone, executive director of the Corvallis Convention and Visitors Bureau, said Corvallis has lost out on as many as 37 major city-wide conferences in the last four years because it lacks a "headquarter hotel." Organizers of some of those conferences have told him they may still come to Corvallis when the Hilton Garden Inn is constructed.

"A headquarter hotel is one that is within hopping distance of the conference facilities," Hope-Johnstone said. "When a major conference is scheduled, the board members, VIPs, guest speakers and especially the organizing staff need to be in constant contact with the conference facilities staff. They usually set up a 'war room' in the headquarter hotel from which they conduct business.

"The regular attendees will fill up rooms around the rest of the city," he added.

Hope-Johnstone said Corvallis has missed out on a variety of conferences, mostly those by professional associations and what he says the industry refers to as SMERFs - social, military, ethnic, religious and fraternal organizations.

The new hotel will be the fourth Hilton Garden Inn in Oregon. It will be managed by The Hotel Group, a hotel management and investment company based in Edmonds, Wash. The group is a consortium of local and national companies that manages a variety of Pacific Northwest properties, including Radisson, Hilton Garden Inn, Courtyard by Marriott, Hampton Inn, Holiday Express Inn (including one in Corvallis), Holiday Inn, Comfort Inn, Best Western, Best Inn and Microtel, as well as a variety of independent hotels.

"We're excited about working with Oregon State University on the state's newest Hilton Garden Inn," said Douglas Dreher, executive vice president of The Hotel Group. "We believe our new Hilton project will be the catalyst for fulfilling unrealized convention and conference demand in Corvallis, which will benefit all area hotels."