Hagadone in spotlight again

Hagadone in spotlight again

Parish, Linn

Two years ago, longtime Coeur d’Alene businessman Duane Hagadone announced plans to turn over Hagadone Corp.’s day-to-day operations to five key executives.

In July, at age 72, he finally did it. After more than 40 years of hands-on oversight of a hospitality and media empire that has grown aggressively and now includes roughly 60 companies, he says he hasn’t looked at a financial statement in five months.

It was a short-lived retirement.

Hagadone is back in the limelight, having chosen now to head

up an effort to grow the company’s hospitality division. As a result, he is personally pitching – and taking criticism for – a bold proposal to build a 10- to 14-story hotel tower in downtown Coeur d’Alene and to close two blocks of downtown’s main thoroughfare, Sherman Avenue, to make way for a 3 1/2-acre botanical garden.

“I needed something to do,” says Hagadone from his lakeside office nearby. “I wasn’t going to sit around and watch the grass grow.”

In addition to the tower proposal, the Hagadone Hospitality division plans to make $15 million in upgrades to its flagsnip Coeur d’Alene Resort during the winters of 2005 and 2006, Hagadone says. This January, he says, the resort will close its signature restaurant, Beverly’s, to give it a $1.3 million renovation.

The company also will renovate all of the hotel’s guest rooms in its main tower-two floors at a time-and update all of its public areas over the next two winters. The spa will be expanded and upgraded to be competitive with those at other destination resorts throughout the western U.S., he says.

The size and scope of the spa upgrades ate contingent somewhat on whether the company builds its proposed new hotel tower nearby, Hagadone says. With more guest rooms that the additional tower would bring, the spa would need to be expanded to a greater degree.

Hagadone says design work for a new tower won’t start unless the street closures are approved, and he won’t have a cost estimate for the tower until design work is well under way. Construction likely wouldn’t start until spring 2007 at the earliest, he says.

The new hotel tower isn’t the only proposal on the Hagadone drawing board. At the company’s request, the city of Coeur d’Alene has agreed to annex 273 acres to the southeast of its current city limits, including land occupied by the Coeur d’Alene Resort Golf Course and a marina. Hagadone Hospitality plans between $50 million and $75 million in new development in coming years on that land, including a hotel and apartment complex at the golf course and apartment units at the marina.

Meanwhile, at the west end of town, Hagadone Corp. last January bought 32 acres of land and Yacht Club Sales & Service on Blackwell Island. This fall, the company asked the U.S, Army Corps of Engineers and the Idaho Department of Lands for permission to dredge a channel west of Blackwell Island as part of a planned expansion there.

The downtown-tower plans emerged during a three-day retreat that Hagadone organized to determine how best to grow the company’s resort business. Like most destinationhotel operators, Hagadone Hospitality had taken a beating after 9/11. Now, though, reservations are rebounding strongly, and 2005 bookings are looking even better.

To grow that business, Hagadone, consultants, and others at the retreat looked at three main options: add another tower at the Coeur d’Alene Resort, build a hotel across from the expanding Spokane Convention Center in downtown Spokane, or build a destination resort in a “Sun Country” city along the West Coast.

Hagadone says he chose building a project in Coeur d’Alene, with the Spokane option as a runner-up, and a hotel in “Sun Country” in third.

As proposed, the ISO- to 175-room hotel tower would be built at the northwest corner of Second Street and Sherman, where a three-story office structure that Hagadone owns is located. The tower would serve as an expansion of the 350room Coeur d’Alene Resort, which is situated about a half block away, at the edge of Lake Coeur d’Alene.

The botanical gardens, which would be a memorial to Hagadone’s parents, would be located south and west of the new tower, partially on the stretch of Sherman between Second and Lakeside Avenue.

In addition to providing another downtown attraction, the gardens on Sherman would connect the two hotel towers so guests wouldn’t have to cross a main street to get from one building to the other.

As proposed, traffic would be rerouted off of Sher man and onto Lakeside, which runs parallel to Sherman through the downtown area. Motorists would be able to remain on Lakeside and bypass the main downtown area, or rejoin Sherman.

Hagadone says he has submitted a written proposal to the city through which he proposed that Hagadone Hospitality would create and maintain the gardens, which would be open and free to the public, and the city would maintain ownership of the land.

Either both the hotel and gardens projects go ahead, of neither does, Hagadone, says. If the city doesn’t approve the street closure, Hagadone will pursue a hotel project in downtown Spokane.

The proposal has raised eyebrows throughout Coeur d’Alene and has brought for ward protest from some citizens.

Carol Horning Stacey wrote a column denouncing the project in the Oct. 29 Nickel’s Worth want-ad newspaper. In it, she cites traffic problems and loss of public land as flaws in the proposal, while sharply criticizing Hagadone Hospitality.

“Just once – just a little once,” the column opens, “we’d like to see Hagadone Hospitality come up with a grand design that doesn’t include taking over public property.”

Hagadone argues that his proposed street change actually would improve traffic, because some motorists would opt to stay on Lakeside rather than going down Sherman, in essence dispersing traffic from one street onto two. He notes separately that a resort expansion would bring an additional 88,000 visitors a year to town, and they’d spend an estimated $17 million to $18 million in the area.

Criticism isn’t new for Hagadone. Some residents protested the original Coeur d’Alene Resort project when it was first proposed in the mid-1980s, the Coeur d’Alene Golf Course proposal in the early 1990s, and other projects since then.

Hagadone says some people speak out against such proposals because they don’t like change, while others simply are critical of , him and his company.

“I could go down to Third and Sherman at 11 o’clock and start handing out $10 bills, and by two o’clock there’d be people bitching that they weren’t 20s,” he says. “That’s life in a small town.”

Later, he says earnestly, “I believe this will help downtown Coeur d’Alene. If anybody can come to me with a legitimate reason – not a political reason and not a Hagadone reason that this shouldn’t be done, I’ll pull it.”

Hagadone has asked the city to make a decision by January whether to accept his proposal.

Hagadone holds an option to buy land across Spokane Falls Boulevard from the Spokane Convention Center. He says he would pick up that option and move ahead with a project there if the other proposal falls through.

He’s vehement that he isn’t playing the two communities against each other.

“I have had people from Spokane call and say, ‘What can we do (to make the. Spokane project happen)?”‘ Hagadone says. “And I said, ‘Nothing.”‘

Copyright Northwest Business Press Inc. Nov 10, 2004

Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning Company. All rights Reserved