RICHLAND — Construction of an extended-stay hotel planned at Richland's Columbia Point since 2008 finally is under way, city officials said.
Richland Hospitality obtained a building permit for the $6.5 million, 90-room Marriott TownePlace Suites hotel across Columbia Point Drive from the Anthony's at Columbia Point restaurant.
Rick Simon, the city's development services manager, said the company already has started some grading and site improvement work after having the city sign off on its environmental review and site plan in mid-2011.
Richland Hospitality is a company set up by InterMountain Management, which bought the land at Columbia Point from the city in 2008, said Gary Ballew, the city's economic development manager.
InterMountain is a third-party management company that works with Marriott.
The project stalled when the recession hit, but the city council hasn't pursued its rights to repurchase the property, instead opting to give the developer more time to find financing.
The council last approved a 12-month extension Aug. 2.
"For the longest time, there wasn't any hotel financing," Ballew said. "It's still rare."
But the market is showing some signs of life, with developers moving dirt on TownePlace Suites. Ballew said the proposed Hilton Homewood Suites on George Washington Way also is seeing some activity.
The Hilton site originally was supposed to become an upscale waterfront condominium development called Waterford Place, and a Tuscan-style clubhouse was built -- and has sat vacant -- since that project also fell victim to the economy.
Waterford Place was re-envisioned as an extended-stay hotel, renamed the Hilton Homewood Suites, and a building permit was issued in August.
Ballew said he hopes movement on these two projects shows hotel construction may be coming back into vogue after a long period of dormancy.
"There is a demand there, but the ability to get financing has been tough to come by," he said. "Hopefully, this shows some softening of that."