Hotels finally on the rise |

Hotels finally on the rise

John HartBobby Brown, owner of Bobby Brown Construction, oversees the building of Grass Valley Courtyard Suites on North Auburn Street on Wednesday.
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One embattled local inn is nearing completion, and another hotel project has received the green light.

Construction on the Nevada City Hotel is expected to start as soon as April, adding 68 rooms and meeting space when it is completed by March 2003. A settlement reached two weeks ago allows work to start on the hotel, following more than a year of legal maneuvering after the group Friends of Nevada City filed suit to have Nevada City’s approval thrown out.

Another project, Grass Valley Courtyard Suites on North Auburn Street is nearing completion and will add 26 rooms, plus meeting space, when it opens in May.

Besides adding rooms, the two facilities could fill a niche for midweek business by attracting management workshops, planning retreats, and conferences, said Mary Ann Mueller, president and chief executive officer of the Grass Valley/Nevada County Chamber of Commerce.

The chamber has been trying to bring more people to the area during the midweek. The new facilities will help the chamber promote the area as a midweek destination.

Both facilities will have meeting rooms, and offer a concentration of lodging when combined with nearby facilities, such as the Holbrooke Hotel and the Northern Queen Inn.

So far, the seven buildings that compose the $2.7 million, 22,000-square-foot Grass Valley Courtyard Suites facility are in various stages of completion. Bobby Brown Construction of Grass Valley is overseeing construction and Robert Walker of Nevada City is the architect.

“We should be in good shape for opening in May,” said Kathy Racz. She and her husband, Steve, are managing members and majority shareholders of Grass Valley Courtyard Suites LLC, which also includes two other family members, said Racz.

The Raczes were hoping for a December 1999 opening when they started planning the project.

Their project was hit with appeals during Grass Valley’s planning process, and later, former Grass Valley Mayor Mark Johnson and concerned neighbors filed a lawsuit against the Raczes and the city, said Kathy Racz. The suit claimed the project was too large, and created too much traffic, among other issues. A traffic study from K.D. Anderson of Sacramento determined the project had no more impact than other commercial applications for which the project was zoned, Racz said. The issue was settled in 2000.

Now that the facility is set for opening, its first week, June 7-June 15 is 100 percent booked, said Kathy Racz. The hotel is booked for a wedding and a company retreat that week.

“It doesn’t surprise me, because of what we’re going to offer,” said Racz.

Given the reservations, phone calls and inquiries she has seen so far, Racz said, she anticipates bookings that will keep the facility 80-85 percent occupied in summer.

That would be somewhat higher than the 68 percent average occupancy that Racz determined from polling four hotels last year.

Racz said there is a need for lodging in the area, and that her hotel is unique, making it more of a draw. She believes the facility will attract a range of clientele seeking upscale lodging, from companies seeking conferences to families visiting the area for a week’s vacation.

The rooms, ranging from 400 to 1,400 square feet, will be larger than the standard 250- to 300-square-foot hotel room. Twelve of the rooms will have fireplaces and 32-inch television sets.

The hotel’s kitchen facilities will help attract families on vacation, said Racz.

A lounge will double as a daytime meeting room for company retreats.

Capping it off will be a 14-foot high fountain for wedding photo opportunities, and a swimming pool, spa, sauna and fitness center. Each room will have a different decor. The Raczes have an interior design business, Harding and Racz Interiors.

“There’s such a need for this area for the hospitality industry,” said Racz. “Something like this is a unique concept.”

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