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St. Helena needs small hotel on Adams Street property

St. Helena needs small hotel on Adams Street property

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The following is the letter I submitted to the City Council on Nov. 26, 2019:

I am here tonight to encourage you to issue the RFQ/RFP for a small hotel on Adams Street.

If you would refer back to last May, more speakers and letter writers urged you to move forward than opposed. But in the face of a smaller, but vocal, opposition, a majority of you decided to put the RFQ/RFP on hold until you could see all the cost estimates for City Hall and more. Now these costs are pouring in. They are significant and as we delay finding solutions, one thing is certain -- costs only increase.

I want you to know that there are many residents like myself who want you to move forward. The citizens of St. Helena have been battling it out on Adams for a decade or more. We need a supportive community and City Council that puts the greater good for all above our individual priorities and one that addresses the realities of today and the financial needs of tomorrow.

It is evident that a hotel on Adams would ensure long-term economic stability for the city and help pay for some of our much-neglected infrastructure needs, possibly help fund an updated library, a community building, maybe even a decent working environment at our corporate yard?

I applaud the city council for having solicited wider public input to better define the guidelines for a Request for Proposal (RFP) for the de…

But beyond the wish for new and improved city infrastructure, we also have a struggling downtown. Pop-ups are filling some of our empty storefronts, but they are not a permanent solution. For this, we need a smart, sustainable, economic development strategy that supports businesses and workers and benefits the city and all the residents into the future.

Through the 2018 Downtown Market Study we learned that St. Helena’s demographics are currently insufficient to support our businesses. To address this issue, Kosmont recommended that we consider a luxury hotel on Adams precisely because it is so close and walkable to downtown.

We don’t have a business-friendly reputation. There is a “let’s-wait-and-see” sentiment in the community. We need to turn the conversation from “do nothing” to “investment in our future.” And we need to find the right partners to work with us to go forward in a responsible and sustainable manner. We can either continue to drift or we can move forward. So far, drift has not been pretty.

Are there creative ways a developer could work with the city to create a small hotel on the Adams Street property that would benefit downtown and the city in general? As a community, we will never know until we see a proposal.

The draft RFQ/RFP that was put on hold in May, envisioned a significantly smaller hotel on less property than in 2016. It preserved land for public use. It spoke to the importance of sustainable land planning and architectural design, aesthetic character that respects the neighborhood and community. It preserved walking path to the river, requires a workforce-housing needs profile, and more.

I see no downside. We should at least look to see whether there is a willing partner who wants to invest in St. Helena. A firm with proven development experience and the financial wherewithal to deliver a project that we define and that has the potential to benefit St. Helena now and for the future.

The new finance committee you are going to discuss later tonight may help you determine how to pay for all the infrastructure work that must be done. But it does not address the equally important need to revitalize our downtown. As for our largest city asset – Adams Street, they will have to operate on guestimates instead of concrete proposals.

But there is no doubt that private investment in a small hotel on Adams will not only yield an immediate cash infusion, it will support business and deliver a long-term revenue stream for the betterment of the entire city.

I encourage you to issue the RFQ/RFP. I think there is a way for almost everyone to get something of what they want. Thank you for listening.

Susan Kenward

St. Helena

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