By Rachael Rees
When local developers Vernon Palmer and Pat Kelley bought the former Plaza Motel on Northwest Wall Street out of foreclosure, they had their work cut out for them.
They found the 32 rooms in the building — which last served as low-income studio apartments — in different states of disarray.
Many showed wear with chipped laminate countertops and stained teal carpets. Some walls had holes and others were yellowed from cigarette smoke. And most of the rooms contained trash and personal items from transients who had squatted in the space.
“This motel really needed some loving because it had been run into the ground — about as much as you can run it into the ground,” Palmer said.
Their vision was to gut the apartment complex near Olney Avenue and transform it into 17 lodging suites. And after about 1½ years of construction and more than $300,000, the former motel has a new look and a new name — Wall Street Suites.
“The property was inexpensive, and the location doesn’t get a whole lot better for a distressed piece of property in Bend,” Palmer said. “When I initially put an offer on it, I didn’t even know what I wanted to do with it. … But the more I looked at it, the more I envisioned something like a boutique hotel.”
The Plaza Motel was built in 1950. It was purchased in 2007 and turned into low-income housing, becoming a regular stop for law enforcement responding to calls about drug use, assaults, burglary and graffiti, according to The Bulletin’s archives. It closed in 2010 when the previous owner filed bankruptcy, according to the archives.
“My recollection of this property included police cars and yellow tape,” Palmer said. “That’s pretty much what you knew about this hotel — drug deals gone bad and people being injured and fights.”
But as the hotel prepares to house its first guests, Palmer hopes it will start earning a new reputation.
From solid granite countertops, wood cabinetry and paneling, to slate, marble and sandstone floors and walk-in showers, co-owner Wendy Kelley said, Wall Street Suites is positioned to be a jewel in downtown lodging.
Rooms vary in size from about 280-600 square feet and are priced from $145-$195 a night as an introductory rate, she said.
Palmer said he improved the property to a higher degree than he initially thought he would.
“The more we got into it, the more we wanted to do,” he said. “It became more of a work of art.”
Overnight lodging is so homogenized today, Palmer said.
“Oftentimes, when you’re on a trip and you’re just passing through that’s what you want,” he said. “But if it’s your destination, you want it somewhat more special, and that’s what we had in mind for here.”
Bend is a great destination, he said; the hotel has a prime location, and visitors won’t know its history.
“You’re right across the street from the river. You’re five or six blocks from the heart of old Bend and the mountains are right out the window,” Palmer said. “All they’ll (say) is, ‘Hey, somebody transformed this old hotel into something really cool.’”
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