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Plan calls for replacing downtown apartments with hotel complex

Daily Inter Lake | December 29, 2021 1:00 AM

A proposal has come forward to construct a multi-building “hospitality complex” in the Railway District downtown replacing an apartment building on the property.

The owners of the property at 37 Lupfer Avenue have submitted plans to the City of Whitefish outlining details around the project called Larch House.

The project is expected to include 32 hotel rooms in both cabins and townhome-style units. A two-story amenity building, known as the Larch House, would include additional hotel rooms and a restaurant. The 10 total buildings are planned to be set off by a central courtyard.

Larch House is being developed by SHOP Development, a Dallas, Texas-based developer of hospitality, mixed-use and retail projects.

“Larch House offers the location, design sophistication and quality of a traditional boutique hotel, but operates somewhat in the manner of a private residence,” Daniel Fuller, President of SHOP Development, said in an email. “The result is an intimate, design-oriented lodging experience in a discreet location. We couldn’t be more excited about this project. We believe Larch House will be a transformational anchor for the Railway District, and hope that it serves as a benchmark for future development in the area.”

The opening for Larch House is anticipated in the spring of 2024.

The city’s Architectural Review Committee earlier this month approved the design for the project. That approval is valid for 18 months.

The site currently includes an apartment complex with 20 units along with off-street parking. The property is zoned WB-3, which allows for short-term rentals.

City Planning Director Dave Taylor said the zoning on the property allows for hotels and motels as a permitted use, and would not need to provide off-street parking. The project is below the threshold of 7,500 square feet that triggers the requirement to obtain a conditional use permit like has been required for other hotels in downtown, he noted.

The project only needs to obtain architectural approval and a building permit to be constructed.

Larch House project is being designed by Tom Kundig, a principal/owner of the Seattle-based design and architecture firm Olson Kundig. In a description of the project, Kundig says Larch House is intended to be a new anchor in the Railway District while respecting the history and character of the surrounding neighborhood and its design came after the owner and consultant team studied the existing commercial uses and the city’s master plan.

“The site – bordered by residential and commercial neighborhoods – was somewhat tucked away from downtown but within walking distance of shops and restaurants,” Kundig said in a statement describing the project. “Realizing that a boutique, design-oriented hotel would complement existing lodging options and could serve to draw visitors into the Railway District, the vision for Larch House emerged.”

The main building known as the Larch House, located on East First Street, would include a reception, sitting area, common recreation area for the entire complex, a restaurant and a rooftop bar. In the center of the property, the four-season courtyard is expected to include a variety of hospitality and public gathering spaces.

The cabins would be positioned to line Railway and Lupfer streets with patios that face the street and are expected to be designed to have chimneys and pitched roofs in keeping with the neighborhood.

The Larch Building is planned to be a brick facade with oversized windows with a covered pedestrian walkway along the building leading into the restaurant and other spaces inside the building.