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Developers begin initial phases for Holiday Inn Express in Willamette district

It is likely that a four-story Holiday Inn Express hotel will be built in the Willamette district. If built, it would be West Linn's first hotel.

An application has not yet been submitted to the city's planning department, but city planners did meet with five representatives of the proposed franchise last month in a preapplication conference.

The 65-unit hotel is planned on nearly an acre of land a short distance east of the intersection of Willamette Falls Drive and 10th Street, according to city Associate Planner Peter Spir.

The land is zoned general commercial, and contains wetlands and the Bennett Creek riparian corridor.

A commercial broker, engineer and several investors joined three members of city staff and a representative of the Willamette Neighborhood Association last month for the preapplication meeting.

Chief among concerns of those who live nearby, according to neighborhood representative Fran Peake, are traffic congestion and building design.

Even though the property is not inside the historic overlay district in Willamette, the contractor has experience designing buildings with a historic flavor.

'The general contractor is very aware of the historic nature of Willamette,' Peake said, 'and he also was contractor for the Cannery Pier Hotel in Astoria. He has worked with their historical society and neighbors. I gathered that they want to produce a design that would fit the Willamette community.'

Peake said there are times of each day that neighbors try to avoid traveling on Willamette Falls Drive, and she was afraid that the addition of a hotel might aggravate that situation.

'It gets so horrible on that street,' she said. 'The attitudes are terrible; people just get nasty. And if the freeway is blocked and (Willamette Falls Drive) is full and someone wants to make a left turn into the hotel, it could back up into the 10th Street Corridor.'

City staff discussed with the developers the idea of incorporating a right-in, right-out pattern at the entrance to the hotel's parking lot.

Although no one at the planning meeting represented Holiday Inn, that's not unusual, according to Holiday Inn's media representative Monica Smith, speaking in a telephone interview Monday from her Atlanta, Ga., office.

'At this point it's speculation,' Smith said. 'We haven't had a franchise agreement signed yet. We only have record of new properties now under development in four Oregon cities, but not West Linn.'

The preapplication conference, Spir said, is preliminary in nature. Architectural drawings aren't needed until an application is submitted to the city.

Instead, the developers use the preapplication conference to find out what the city and the neighborhood would like to see to make the application more acceptable to all.

'They are proposing a Holiday Inn Express,' Spir said, 'where you pull off the freeway for a quick overnight stop, and you're on your way the next morning. The amenities would be sparse, but it is something that they thought was lacking in that corridor.'

Holiday Inn Express is one of seven hotels managed by the InterContinental Hotels Group, with global headquarters in the United Kingdom.