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Plans for a new 39-room, four-story hotel in downtown Healdsburg are getting a generally positive reception from those who have gotten a glimpse of what it would look like.

In a town that is questioning the role of tourism and whether there needs to be a restriction on the size of new hotels, the latest project is garnering favorable reviews.

"They're in a range we think is acceptable to most people," said Bruce Abramson, member of Healdsburg Citizens for Sustainable Solutions, which likely will pursue a ballot measure next year to limit the size of new hotels in Healdsburg.

"They did outreach to the community and they listened to the concerns," he said Wednesday "They kind of negotiated with us. We're happy they lowered the number of rooms."

Nicknamed "h3hotel," the four-story building is proposed at 227 Healdsburg Ave. on the site of a current parking lot less than a half-block south of the town plaza.

The hotel would be a sister property to the nearby h2hotel and the Hotel Healdsburg developed by the Sher family and Paolo Petrone, who also manages three hotels in Marin County.

With downtown parking a recurring concern in Healdsburg, critics of new hotel development were pleased to see 50parking spaces proposed in the new hotel, thanks to a type of lift technology on the ground floor that allows for cars to be stacked three high by a valet.

"We've had a really good experience with introducing this project to the community," said Circe Sher, a principal in the partnership behind the hotel. "So far, so good."

She spoke Wednesday night at a public informational meeting where details of the estimated $15million to $16 million project were unveiled.

Petrone told the audience of about 30 people that preserving the small-town feeling is a community concern and one they aim to incorporate, in addition to making it viable economically.

"We value your input and we really learned a lot," he said.

The reception to the h3 project has been in stark contrast to the opposition engendered by a five-story, 75-room hotel proposed by Florida-based Kessler Collection in another parking lot across the street on Healdsburg Avenue.

Kessler withdrew its application last month in the face of protests over the height and density of the building. It was criticized for not getting more community feedback before going to the city with its application.

The project sparked a debate on whether Healdsburg has gone too far catering to tourism and whether there should be a limit on the size of new hotels, similar to a ballot measure that Sonoma voters rejected last month.

Warren Watkins, who battled Saggio Hills — the approved but unbuilt 130-room hotel and 70 luxury homes on the northern edge of Healdsburg — said Wednesday that HCSS will likely launch a drive for a voter initiative for the November 2014 ballot that would limit new hotels to between 30 to 40 rooms.

"We're not going to oppose it," he said of the h3hotel, adding that his group met with developers and was able to get them to reduce the number of rooms down from 43.

Developers said they were able to cut down the number of rooms by slightly redesigning the project.

The "timeless modern' look of the 50-foot-high hotel has a predominately redwood exterior with both vertical and horizontal slats that Sher acknowledged give it a bit of a "woven basket" look. The ground floor is proposed with a glazed facade and vine-covered trellises.

There would be a 1,500-square-foot meeting room that could accommodate breakfast service, but no restaurant. Plans also call for an indoor-outdoor rooftop lounge.

The project is designed by David Baker Associates of San Francisco, which also did the 55-room Hotel Healdsburg and 36-room h2hotel.

Petrone said room rates would be lower than the $360 year-round average for the Hotel Healdsburg and closer to the $275 rate for the h2hotel.

There would be three suites, some with connecting doors to standard rooms, intended to cater to families. There would also be bicycle storage to accommodate cycling groups.

The developers said they plan to submit their application next month. They anticipate starting construction in 2015 with possible completion in 2016 if all goes smoothly.

You can reach Staff Writer Clark Mason at 521-5214 or clark.mason@pressdemocrat.com.

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