PORT ANGELES — Clearing and grading of the site for a planned four-story, 106-room Lower Elwha Klallam-owned hotel in downtown Port Angeles is set to begin Monday.
Project Manager Michael Peters said the tribe submitted the application for the clearing and grading permit for the site on the 1.16-acre parcel in the 100 block of East Front Street in April, but staffing issues at the city put this necessary step on delay, with the permit finally being approved in August.
“One of the big delays that the city is having is the staffing issues from what I understand,” Peters said.
“It’s been tough to get a clarification and answer from the city because of those issues and the fact that you used to be able to walk into the permitting offices and get answers almost immediately, but that’s not the case anymore, so we are living with the process of the world we live in today, and it does take a little bit longer,” he continued.
“The city isn’t the only place with staffing issues,” he added.
City officials said they had received an incomplete clearing and grading permit in April and that the material required to complete the application was received in June. The permit was ultimately approved in late July.
“The city has record-high permit volumes compared to current staffing levels and, as a result, is experiencing extended review times,” said Jessica Straits, Port Angeles communications manager.
“That said, we are very excited to see this project moving forward and greatly appreciate the Tribe’s investment as part of the renaissance of downtown Port Angeles.”
The 80,494-square-foot hotel, described as four-star by Peters, is to include a swimming pool as well as a restaurant and kitchen with a combined 3,060 square feet.
The clearing and grading project will take about two weeks to complete, Peters said, with minimal impacts to traffic along Front Street.
“There are a lot of trucks that will be moving through the corridor there to haul fill to the site,” he said.
“Our plan right now is to bring everything directly onto the site so that there will be minimal impacts of truck traffic in the driveway itself, do the fill and compaction, and move the trucks off as soon as that is complete,” he added.
The long-term impact on downtown traffic will be when construction begins, which Peters hopes will begin sometime this year.
“Our goal is to have our construction documents complete by the end of September. We will sit down and do a final review of those documents, and ideally we would be submitting for construction to the city by mid-October,” Peters said.
Peters said the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe was originally going to go through a two-part construction application process, beginning with the foundation and piling packages, while completing the documents for the above-ground phase of the project.
But it was decided it would go through the construction permitting process only once and submit both above- and below-ground phases together.
“We will throw up our shoulders and fall on the mercy of the city as to how quick they can put us in line for review and how fast we can get the permission to move forward,” Peters said.
City officials estimate that, once the documents are submitted, it can complete the first review process in 30-45 days. Much of that process will depend on how busy the city’s economic development department and engineering staff is at that time, Straits said. It could be longer if there are significant or complicated stormwater issues.
After the first review by the city, the Tribe may need additional time to make revisions and resubmit plans for further review by the city.
Once construction begins, Peters estimated it would take 18-24 months to complete the hotel.
In addition to permit delays, the Elwha Hotel has had to undergo some slight design and cost changes due to cost inflation on materials.
“Like everyone, we have been directly impacted by the inflation factor,” Peters said. “We are working on some solutions.
“We have already started doing some value engineering to find ways to reduce the inflation without decreasing the quality of the hotel,” Peters said.
Peters said the Tribe would have a better idea of the full cost — which was estimated at $25 million in June 2021 — and scope of the changes once the application for construction comes together at the end of the month.
The tribe purchased the initial 0.65-acre parcel from the city of Port Angeles as surplus property in December 2018 for $950,000, which included $650,000 for environmental cleanup at the site, which had included a garage that housed an oil and gas company.
It also purchased and removed adjourning property such as the Necessities and Temptations gift shop at the corner of Railroad Avenue and Laurel Street on the north end of the parcel and the Cornerhouse Restaurant on Front Street.
The finished hotel will front both East Railroad Avenue, overlooking the Port Angeles Harbor, and East Front Street, with the Olympic Mountains in the distance.
Reporter Ken Park can be reached at [email protected].