A private parking lot just south of the Healdsburg Plaza is targeted as the site for a new boutique hotel, adding more upscale lodging to the popular tourist town.
The Kessler Collection, a Florida-based hotel company, has an option to purchase the parcel in downtown Healdsburg, according to the property owner.
And the company also is negotiating with the city to meet parking and other requirements for the project, described as ranging from 60 to 70 rooms, and four to five stories in height, said several people briefed on the details.
"It's a pretty big project," said contractor Jerry Eddinger, who was offered the job as project manager, then declined citing other commitments.
Eddinger, a former mayor and currently chairman of the city planning commission, said the company wants to develop its first California property and has looked at sites in Napa, Petaluma and Sonoma.
"Healdsburg is the first choice," he said.
Healdsburg Chamber of Commerce officials say the city needs more hotel rooms, especially on busy weekends when visitors are sent to neighboring communities such as Geyserville or Cloverdale.
Healdsburg leaders appear receptive to the prospect of a new hotel and the economic boost it can bring, in contrast to Sonoma, another tourist magnet where the City Council placed a controversial measure on the November ballot that would limit hotel development.
But the Healdsburg project is far from a done deal and there has been no formal application.
In response to inquiries from The Press Democrat, company Chairman and CEO Richard Kessler released a statement saying "in the near future, we will propose to the City of Healdsburg a comprehensive development of a 4-star boutique hotel."
"It is certainly our intention to offer a product and service that does not presently exist in the market and would be a benefit to the citizens of Healdsburg and the surrounding area. We will be working closely with the City of Healdsburg and elected officials to achieve this goal," he said.
The company touts its portfolio of ten "exclusively designed and artistically inspired boutique properties," each filled with "unique artwork from internationally acclaimed artists."
Kessler locations include Savannah, Georgia, Taos, N.M., St. Augustine, Fla., Asheville, N.C. and ski- and hunting-themed lodging in Colorado.
Kessler's intent to develop a hotel in Healdsburg surfaced after the City Council met twice in closed session this month to discuss selling city-owned parcels to the hotel company, apparently to help meet parking or other requirements associated with the project.
City officials have declined to explain why the city-owned properties are in play, and whether the city would be selling them entirely, partially, or granting an easement.
They include a city-owned, public parking lot that stretches between Healdsburg Avenue and Center Street immediately south of the potential hotel site; the West Plaza parking lot at 17 Matheson Street; and a grassy spot to the north of City Hall parking lot.
"We're now talking about a number of city-owned properties and how they may, or may not play into the project," said City Manager Marjie Pettus. "We're still in closed session, so there's nothing I can disclose or talk about."
She acknowledged, though, that "they want to build a hotel.
"They have to meet parking requirements. It's about meeting options and how to package something up that will meet their needs and the city's needs," she said.