Developer seeks OK for Richland waterfront hotel

RICHLAND -- Five years after a boutique hotel was proposed for Columbia Point in Richland -- but never built -- the project seems to have gained a breath of new life.

The project has been dead in the water since February 2010, when a lease between developer Columbia Point Development LLC and the city expired because the developer couldn't find financing to build the four-story luxury hotel.

But just as the city was poised to solicit new development proposals for the land, Tom Drumheller, CEO of Escape Lodging, made his pitch to the city to revive the project and said he can bring the money to get it built and opened by summer 2013.

Drumheller was one of the original partners in the proposal for The Lodge at Columbia Point, but backed out in 2008 for reasons he didn't explain when he met with the city council this week.

But he said he is excited about once again planning a hotel at Columbia Point that he said could be a "crown jewel" for Richland's tourism industry -- particularly wine tourism.

"Boutique hotels that are done well are special and put you on the map," Drumheller said.

His previous experience with boutique hotels includes development of the Stephanie Inn, The Ocean Lodge and The Lodges at Cannon Beach, all in Cannon Beach, Ore., where Drumheller lives.

He also was involved with developing Cousins' Country Inn in The Dalles.

But Drumheller is a Walla Walla native and said he's eager to return to Eastern Washington.

"I love this area. I miss it," he said.

And he thinks Columbia Point is a perfect spot for a boutique hotel.

"Your site at Columbia Point is the site we've been searching for," he said. "I personally feel it's one of the best sites in the Northwest."

The Lodge at Columbia Point would be built between Anthony's at Columbia Point restaurant and Marriott's Courtyard Richland Columbia Point hotel.

It would have 81 luxury rooms and 12 suites with fireplaces, decks, riverfront views, luxury bathrooms and central heating and air conditioning.

And because Escape Lodging's proposal is similar to the one by Columbia Point, LLC -- even using the same architect and building footprint -- all the company needs to get started is a lease for the land and a building permit, Drumheller said.

He anticipates construction could start in May and the hotel could be open in July 2013.

The council likely will consider the lease at its Oct. 4 meeting.