The long-dormant dual-branded hotel project on East Second Avenue between Fourth and Fifth streets – that has left a giant scrape of land across from Gazpacho Restaurant – still lives.
After more than a year with no work on the site, Jeff Lamont, CEO of Aberdeen, South Dakota-based Lamont Cos., said work should resume with the building of a two-level parking structure in the next three months.
The company recently took out a $158,834 foundation permit to begin the work.
“We definitely did put the project on hold with COVID,” Lamont said. “It worked out for us. We had already done the site work, and we decided to wait before beginning the construction of the parking ramp.”
The timing of renewed construction for the structure – which will house a 102-room AC Hotel by Marriott and a 100-room Hampton Inn and Suites by Hilton – is still dependent on declining threats from the novel coronavirus, Lamont said. And a date-certain to resume building has not yet been set.
In spring, when construction does resume, a technique new to Durango, modular construction, will be used to decrease disruption to the neighborhood.
Pillars for the parking garage will be pre-poured and shipped in. When construction of the hotel proper starts, rooms will be built modularly off-site and trucked in.
“The complete room will be ready to go. You could make the bed and put the towels in. The only thing you’ll have to do is hook up the plumbing and electrical,” Lamont said.
Each semitruck brought in with modular constructed units will hold two rooms and the portion of hallway that serves the room, and they will be constructed Lego-style, Lamont said.
About 80 modular units will be combined to build each of the hotels, he said.
“We do think this will mitigate some of the noise the neighborhood would hear from a normal construction site,” he said.
Nicol Killian, assistant director for Community Development with the city of Durango, said modular construction moves quickly once the stage is reached when rooms can be stacked and placed on the structure, and that was one of the reasons modular construction was chosen for the project.
The project required approval of the state’s Office of Regulatory Oversight, which has oversight of modular construction in the state.
“It is a unique development for Durango,” she said. “When they start, it will go fast once they have their building permit.”
The hotels will serve the high- to mid-end of the market and will include a small bar and grill, Lamont said. A few small retail shops also might be included in the development, but that has yet to be finalized, he said.
“The thing we liked the best about this project was the location. It’s walkable to the train and downtown Durango,” he said.
Marriott and Hilton sought out Lamont Cos. to develop the hotels, but Lamont Cos. also examined the Durango lodging market before agreeing to go ahead with the development, Lamont said.
“Durango showed strong occupancy rates,” he said. “It was definitely down during the COVID-19 pandemic, but it wasn’t as down as in other markets.”
Remote, rural attractions like Yellowstone National Park outperformed other tourism destinations during the pandemic, and Lamont said Durango followed that trend.
“Across the country you saw recreational leisure markets outperform,” he said.
The two hotels, which will share common areas, will hire between 70 and 100 employees, Lamont said.
He declined to give a dollar amount for the project, instead calling it “a multimillion dollar” investment.
The project is one of three hotel developments Lamont Cos. is currently working on across the country, he said.
Lamont Cos. was founded by Lamont in 1998 and develops franchised hotels, convention centers, restaurants, retail malls, apartment complexes and casinos.