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Ben Lomond Hotel sold to California investment group with plans to renovate

Wednesday , June 01, 2016 – 3:51 PM

(MITCH SHAW/Standard-Examiner)

The Ben Lomond Hotel, designed by Leslie Simmons Hodgson.

MARK SHENEFELT, Standard-Examiner Staff

OGDEN — A California investment group has acquired the Ben Lomond Historic Suites Hotel and plans to renovate the building and position it as a key community player, the new general manager said Wednesday.

“These investors are in it for the long term,” said Tim Nichols, who will manage the Ben Lomond and the Peery Hotel in Salt Lake City, another historic hotel the company bought a year ago. He said the Ben Lomond purchase was completed May 17.

The landmark downtown hotel at the corner of Washington Boulevard and 25th Street began as the five-story Reed Hotel in 1891, according to a history on the hotel’s website. It was renamed the Bigelow Hotel and reworked, with 11 stories added in 1927 under the direction of architect Leslie Hodgson. It entered its heyday in the 1930s under the ownership of banking magnate Marriner Eccles, who renamed it the Ben Lomond Hotel.

But the hotel has been on an ownership roller coaster over the past 40 years. Low points came when business declined and it closed in 2002, reopening under yet another new ownership group in 2004, and in 2009 when the ownership company 2510 Washington LLC defaulted on a $7.3 million loan and the property fell into foreclosure. The California-based Ben Lomond Suites LLC assumed ownership in 2009.

Nichols said the new ownership group, NBT-ERI Ogden LLC, focuses on independent and boutique hotels and specialty brands.

“It is comforting that this is not their first foray into owning mature buildings,” he said during an interview in his second-floor office. The goal is to maintain the historic character and improve the hotel to meet modern needs, Nichols said. The owners, he said, are not property “flippers,” a reference to short-term property speculators.

Nichols manages the two Utah hotels for Sausalito, California-based Marin Management Inc., which runs 37 hotels in 10 states on behalf of various hotel companies and investor groups. Before taking over the Peery in 2015, Nichols was CEO of Sandia Resort and Casino in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

He said the Ben Lomond will be working on an effective brand identity but the owners understand the community importance of the hotel, which is on the National Register of Historic Places.

“We will embrace the history and celebrate the future,” he said. “We have an obligation to be relevant, to participate in the community as a business it can be proud of in a landmark of historical importance to the community.”

Brandon Cooper, Ogden’s deputy director of community and economic development, said the city told the buyer and seller during the sale negotiations that officials hope the building will remain a historic boutique hotel.

“The Ben Lomond is a fixture in the community, and there is a customer that really likes to stay in an off-brand hotel,” Cooper said. “And we feel like there is a market for that, in a way that is profitable.”

The new owners already plan improvements. Phased renovations will begin in July, with the initial work through December focusing on the public spaces and the guest rooms, Nichols said.

“Structurally the hotel is in pretty good shape,” Nichols said. “The main needs are cosmetic.”

Cooper said the city included the Ben Lomond within the proposed Adams Renewal Area in case the owners at some point “need some help with a subsidy.”

“There is no agreement, but in the event it is necessary, we can do that” if the city goes forward with the Adams redevelopment area, he said.

“Typically in some of these older properties, renovation is needed to make them marketable,” Cooper said. “With such a significant historical building, we figure that is a good use of redevelopment dollars.”

Nichols said the new owners will continue a mixed-use concept, with six floors serving as a hotel and three floors as apartments. “We want to position ourselves as an entry-level upscale property,” he said.

“We have fantastic banquet and catering facilities” that will attract corporate use on weekdays and leisure events on weekends, he said.

Plenty of hotels around the country are for sale, he said, “but we chose to come to Ogden because it has a bright future,” Nichols said.

You can reach reporter Mark Shenefelt at mshenefelt@standard.net or 801 625-4224. Follow him on Twitter at @mshenefelt and like him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SEmarkshenefelt.

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