Semiahmoo Resort along with its two golf courses, Semiahmoo Golf and Country Club and Loomis Trail Golf Club, was purchased June 21 for $19.5 million by the newly formed partnership, Resort Semiahmoo, LLC. The managing member is Wright Hotels, Inc., a Seattle-based regional hotel-asset-management and development company. The company is owned by the family that owns Seattle’s Space Needle.
“This is probably the biggest real estate news in the last decade,” said local realtor Mike Kent. “From the surface, for the good of the community, it looks like there couldn’t be a better buyer. This is a group that’s deeply rooted in the Northwest and has been around for a while. They aren’t going to just buy it and let it sit. They will get things done.”
The ownership’s immediate focus will be reopening the hotel at the earliest possible date. “We hope to have it open as soon as possible, but there’s a lot of work to be done,” said Jerry Anches, a partner in the ownership group. “It will take some time and consideration to make sure that the fire and life-safety systems are up to par. At the very minimum, we need to update the guest rooms with new premium mattresses and beddings so people who come can have a comfortable stay.”
Officials said the short-term goal is to get the property in condition to open its doors to guests and to restore employment to many of those whose jobs were lost when the resort closed in December 2012.
“We hope to hire staff and to welcome guests to a new and refreshed Semiahmoo before the end of the summer season,” said Stuart Rolfe, president of Wright Hotels.
More than 300 people lost their jobs when the troubled resort closed. The former owners, Semiahmoo Resort Company, LLC, attributed the closure to the recession and their continued inability to sell the resort, along with the financial conditions of one of the LLC’s members, Trillium Corporation. “Getting those people back to work is among our top goals,” Anches said.
“The resort has been shut down for six months,” Anches said. “It’s going to take some time to get everything underway, and some of the repairs such as fixing roof leaks and making the building watertight again are intrusive. But we’re hiring architects and interior designers to come in and make sure it looks fresh and that everything is all up-to-date. We’re excited to get started.”
Anches said overhauls of the restaurants are in the works, which will be re-themed and receive new menus. “We are fortunate to have Roy Breiman, the award-winning culinary director at Cedarbrook’s Copperleaf Restaurant & Bar, to develop Semiahmoo’s restaurants and bars to be consistent with the high-quality atmosphere of a revitalized Semiahmoo,” Anches said.
The golf courses will continue business as usual, he said.
Kent said that the sale of the long-vacant resort could be a boost for the local economy. “This could be a game changer,” he said. “It’s a huge endorsement for the county and a huge indication of confidence in the market. People who have been holding back and waiting to see if Semiahmoo will get back off its knees now have an answer. It will be interesting to see what happens.”
City manager Gary Tomsic received the news of the sale during his retirement party on June 21. “I couldn’t have had a better retirement present than the sale of Semiahmoo,” he said. “I’m so happy for the good people who will get work and the tourism industry in Whatcom County. I’m most happy that the city will have some of its finances restored so we can continue to maintain and improve services for our citizens.”
The city will receive more than $90,000 in real estate excise tax from the sale, and will see its revenue increase even more when the resort is back in business. When in operation, the resort generated a substantial portion of the city of Blaine’s revenue through hotel/motel taxes, property and sales taxes and utilities use. “They were one of our top ten utility users,” said finance director Jeffrey Lazenby. “They generated around $670,000 a year in utilities revenue alone. It’s going to be a good thing to have them back.”
The resort will be managed by Coastal Hotel Group, another Seattle-based entity. “I’m really happy that they’ve hired a professional management company to work with them,” Tomsic said. “Having good business people and good financial backing – I think that’s crucial to the success of that facility. It’s a good move to bring people in who know what they are doing.”
Coastal Hotel Group specializes in upscale lodging and currently manages five independent lodging properties in Seattle, Portland, Mt. Hood and Tucson – as well as their most recent contract, the Best Western Heritage Inn in Bellingham.