More hotels are in Paso Robles' future as tourism continues to grow

jlynem@thetribunenews.comFebruary 21, 2014 

With the Paso Robles wine, dining and art scene growing, hotel developers are stepping up to meet the demand for lodging in and around the city.

In the next decade, the city expects the number of hotel rooms to double, said city manager Jim App, noting that “investment in hotels is a reflection of the area becoming more of a destination on a national and international scale.”

“I think hoteliers are seeing the opportunities and are investing again,” he said.

In fiscal year 2000, Paso Robles had 648 rooms available. In fiscal year 2014, which began July 1, 2013, and ends June 30, some 1,375 rooms are now available for guests, and city officials anticipate even more growth in the years to come.

The economy as a whole benefits from the increase in rooms, said Jim Throop, the city’s director of administrative services. The city brought in about $3.5 million in transient occupancy tax, also known as bed tax, in fiscal year 2013, which ended June 30.

“It brings in direct income from the TOT,” he said. “But indirectly, there’s sales tax from the restaurants or any shopping tourists might do. And there’s another thing in that someone may come to town, see it and say, ‘I’m going to come back again, and I’m going to buy a home here.’”

Throop added: “The best case scenario is a business like IQMS (a software development firm), where they say, “I’ll bring my business here.” And now, they’ve created jobs for the community.”

The growing demand for rooms is driving the development of both name-brand and higher-end hotels and boutiques, Throop said.

Construction is expected to begin this year on the recently approved five-story, 127-room Oxford Suites on the south side of Fourth Street, between Spring and Pine streets. Meanwhile, the La Quinta Inn and Suites on Buena Vista Drive is continuing its 37-room expansion.

The Ayres Hotel on Buena Vista Drive, which features 169 rooms, is in its first phase of development. Construction on that Tuscan-style hotel is expected to be complete in late spring.

A 128-room Residence Inn by Marriott, located south of Highway 46 at South Vine, is slated to go to the Planning Commission in April. Owners of Vina Robles and Robert Hall wineries also have expressed interest in developing boutique hotels on their properties, Throop said, although the developments are in the idea phase.

Environmental analysis continues on the La Entrada de Paso Robles off Highway 46 East, north of Hunter Ranch Golf Course. A 132-acre resort is planned on the 386-acre property owned by Ken Hunter Jr.

The development, originally approved in 2002, is expected to include 200 hotel rooms, 80 detached casita bungalows, a 15,000-square-foot conference center and a restaurant, as well as space for a spa, a detached wine and visitors center, three-hole executive golf training academy and a 90,000-square-foot outdoor experiential garden called Discovery Gardens.

The Gateway Project, proposed by Quorum Realty, has applied to annex property near Highway 101 and Highway 46 West into the city to build three resort hotels and 63,000 square feet of commercial retail space, 35 single-family homes, vineyards and dedicated open space. An environmental impact report is being prepared to evaluate potential impacts, including water resources.

City officials said that projects developed within the city limits and on property zoned for commercial uses are in the city’s water plan. If the project is a new use — from industrial to commercial, for example — and is not in the city’s water plan, it has to acquire an additional supply of water.

Whether it’s a large or small development, Paso Robles is making sure it has enough space for its overnight or extended-stay guests, officials say.

“Paso is in its infancy in tourism,” Throop said. “With all the write-ups and accolades we’ve been receiving, we’re seeing increases. People are saying, ‘Hey, this is the place to be.’ ”

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