New stores, hotel making progress

Posted: Friday, July 20, 2007

During his city manager's report Wednesday night, Rick Koch told the Kenai City Council he expects to bring an amended purchase agreement with Lowe's Home Improvement Centers to the next council meeting.

The new proposed agreement, which includes a new appraisal of the city property Lowe's would like to buy, would have language similar to that in the city's agreement with Wal-Mart.

Wal-Mart plans to build a super center behind the Kenai Chrysler Center and Lowe's tentatively plans to build across Marathon Road from the new Wal-Mart.

Koch said the new agreement would enable Lowe's to buy the property with the ability to get their money back within 12 months if they decide not to go forward with the project.

After several delays since the project was first announced, Koch said he still believes Lowe's plans to go forward.

"It's and 75 'yes' and 25 'maybe not,'" he said Thursday.

"In my mind, they're committed to going forward," Koch said.

He told the council the Army Corps of Engineers has all the information it needs to proceed with issuing a wetlands permit to Wal-Mart.

The giant retailer plans to build its store on a 33-acre parcel, which includes 1 1/2 acres of wetlands that would need to be filled in.

Koch also said he was "happy to see dirt being moved," at the site of a new Aspen Hotel to be built behind the Kenai McDonald's restaurant.

The three-story, 78-room hotel is being built on private land east of the Three Bears grocery store off the Kenai Spur Highway.

"I would think they're looking at opening in late May," Koch said, adding he expects they will have the exterior of the building built by October to be out of winter weather while completing the inside.

When asked about demand for rooms within the city, Koch said few rooms are available during peak summer months, and said the city is "now seeing increased commercial demand" with Shell Oil Company contracting for as many as 300 rooms in the next year as its people are trained in underwater helicopter escape and rescue at the new facility in Kenai Central High School.

People coming to Kenai for training at the Pacific Rim Institute of Safety and Management, now run by the state fire marshal, also are in need of additional lodging rooms, he said.

The Aspen Hotel is estimated to cost $4.5 million.

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