Since the end of 2013, Bend has seen a flurry of lodging development, with five new and upgraded hotels opening or reopening in the city. With four more developments proposed or under construction, there is no sign of the industry slowing down.
In the last 12 months alone, a Hampton Inn & Suites opened in September on SW Columbia Street. Additionally, a My Place hotel, from the South Dakota-based economy hotel chain, opened its doors in December.
Kevney Dugan, president and CEO of Visit Bend, the city’s tourism promotion agency, said the new offerings bring the total number of hotel rooms in Bend to 2,803.
“What we’re seeing a lot more of is that middle tier of the Hampton Inns, the Springhill Suites,” Dugan said. “I think that’s the sweet spot, is that type of hotel room in this destination.”
Aaron Henson, senior planner with the city of Bend, said several new hotels should open in the next couple of years.
Most notably, a four-story, 106-room Marriott Springhill Suites hotel is being built in SW Bend, on the site formerly occupied by the Brooks-Scanlon crane shed. City documents estimate the project, which includes a conference center, to be worth $10.4 million. Dugan said the project is scheduled to be completed by April.
Additionally, Henson said Braxton & Klein Capital Partners LLC, the Bozeman, Montana-based company that is developing the Springhill Suites, filed a preliminary application to develop a new Marriott Residence Inn at 500 SW Bond St., down the street from the new My Place. A Best Western hotel is slated for SW Yates Drive, near SW Century and SW Mt. Washington drives.
Henson added that there is a preliminary application to develop an empty parcel at NW Wall Street and NW Olney Avenue. Dugan said these projects could bump the total number of hotel rooms in Bend to 3,200 by 2018.
“Bend is very much the hub of Central Oregon, so the growth is very much something we need to look forward on,” Dugan said.
During the summer, visitors to Bend booked almost every hotel room in the city.
According to numbers from Visit Bend, hotel occupancy in the city exceeded 90 percent in July 2015, and hit 85 percent in June.
“When you look at occupancy of 90 percent, 88 percent in the summer, there’s a demand that’s not being satisfied,” Dugan said, “which a developer might look at and say, ‘there’s an opportunity.’”
Conversely, Bend hotels were just 51 percent occupied in November, the slowest month of the 2016 fiscal year. Dugan said Visit Bend is working with the city on events to draw people to Bend during the shoulder seasons. Tenth Month, a new branding campaign that promotes four conferences during October, will be making its debut this year.
The high level of variance between seasons is one of several factors that developers consider when placing a hotel in town. Jonathan Braxton, principal at Braxton & Klein, said the appeal of Bend as a small but growing city outweighed the seasonal challenge.
“We recognize there are ups and downs during a given year,” Braxton said.
Dugan added that the ideal situation for the city is an occupancy rate with fewer peaks and valleys during a year that sits around 80 percent.
The strength of the local and national economy factors into hotel development as well. Alana Hughson, president and CEO of the Central Oregon Visitors Association, said existing resorts in Central Oregon, including Brasada Ranch and Tetherow, have added new units recently. Hughson said some of the new development is in response to a backlog that built up during the Great Recession.
“The recession really saw everyone take their foot off the pedal,” Hughson said.
With the recession squarely in the rearview mirror, several hotels in and around the city have remodeled to add more rooms or update their existing offerings. McMenamins Old St. Francis School in downtown Bend more than doubled its supply of rooms during the summer, from 23 to 65.
Free Star Yost, property manager for McMenamins, said the property sold three of its four cottages, and added two large buildings on the property: the Art House and the Ed House, which house 24 and 17 guest rooms, respectively.
“It was time to just expand and have more opportunities for people to stay with us,” Yost said.
She added that the project broke ground in the fall of 2015. The three-story Ed House, which celebrates McMenamins’ history as a Catholic schoolhouse, opened at the beginning of July. The Art House, where 24 artists painted and designed the rooms, opened later that month. Yost added that the buildings feature several secret rooms, including a hidden upstairs bar.
“I feel that downtown has gotten a little more vibrant in the last 10 or 12 years, Yost said. “Between downtown and the Old Mill (District), it’s just so vibrant.”
Indeed, all but two of the new projects will occupy the corridor between the two areas. Dugan said the concentration of shopping and restaurants in the area made it appealing for new hoteliers.
“People want to be close to those things; they want to be able to walk there,” Dugan said. “I think that connection between downtown and the Old Mill has come a long way.”
Braxton added that being close to the Old Mill District was a significant selling point for the firm.
In the city of Bend’s recent urban growth boundary update, the city identified the area between NW Colorado Avenue and Wilson Avenue south of downtown as an “opportunity area.” It’s a location within the existing footprint of the city where additional development can help Bend grow more efficiently, including adding hotels.
Following consecutive summers that saw an estimated 19,000 people visit Bend daily, residents have raised concerns about the number of tourists in the city. Dugan emphasized that the new hotel construction will be staggered to minimize their impact, which he said would be small relative to the growth in new residents and workers who commute from elsewhere in the region.
While tourism has been a key part of Bend’s economy, Regional Economist Damon Runberg said it is far less predominant than it is in tourism-oriented cities like Jackson Hole, Wyoming. According to numbers from the Oregon Employment Department, just under 4 percent of residents worked in lodging and accommodations in Deschutes County during July 2015, the month with the highest number of seasonal lodging employees. In March, a traditionally slow part of the tourism season in Central Oregon, that figure dropped to 2.3 percent.
“It’s not as big of an animal as maybe it feels like at certain times of the year,” Dugan said of the tourism industry.
Runberg said hotels may be the most visible commercial developments in Bend, but they are not alone. With space limited, Runberg said he expects more traditional commercial developments to join the new hotels by 2017.
“We’re getting to a point where we’re starting to see more commercial development,” Runberg said.
— Reporter: 541-617-7818, email@example.com