Transforming a rundown neighborhood hotel can be challenging, but a group of local investors believe they have the solution for the former Lion’s Inn Motel.
The facility at 2419 Elm St. is now the Heliotrope Hotel, named after a favorite local trail among the owners. An open house for the community is scheduled for 4-8 p.m. on May 13 and the 17-room hotel will be open for business on May 15.
The hotel is getting a major facelift, including new cabinetry designed by Edison-based Smith & Vallee, which is one of the partners in the ownership group. The outdoor area was also remodeled and offers a fire pit and yard games. Other partners in the group include David Johnston and Bob Hall, who have restored many downtown Bellingham structures, including the Leopold and Herald buildings.
“Making that connection with the neighborhood is key for us,” said Dylan Green, project manager for the hotel. He added that the hotel is in a beautiful neighborhood, but felt it wasn’t contributing to the area in a positive way.
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The ownership group is focusing on several niches in order to attract customers, Green said. First and foremost they want it to “provide the guest bedroom” for the nearby neighborhoods who have family or friends coming to visit, Green said.
Along with neighborhood guests, the hotel is geared toward the tech-savvy, urban traveler as well as those into outdoor recreation, Green said. With so many recreation selections in the area, it provides a great opportunity to attract people year-round, from mountain bikers and hikers to snowboarders. They’ve also received support from area real estate agents because there are many prospective homebuyers who are looking for lodging.
Lion’s Inn Motel was built in the 1950s and several attempts were made to revamp its image. According to a 2008 article in The Bellingham Herald, the motel was originally built to cater to motorists traveling Highway 99, the main north-south route through Bellingham before Interstate 5 arrived. Tourists and other travelers shifted east after the freeway was built in the 1960s. The article said the hotel became a regular stop for Bellingham police, responding to an average of 1-2 complaints a month between 2004 through 2007.
Along with revamping the building and outside area and marketing to specific customer bases, the price point may also make a difference. In 2008 as the Lion’s Inn, rooms were going for around $49 a night. As the Heliotrope, rates will range from around $90 to $160, Green said.
The hotel is in the process of hiring around six people with hospitality experience who would make good ambassadors to the community, Green said.
For details about the hotel, call 888-966-0801 or visit HeliotropeHotel.com.