Two Midwestern hotel developers are planning a 90-plus room Marriott or Hilton franchise at the former Bayside Sentry Market at the foot of the South Slope.
Ruth Birdwell, the widow of regional auto salesman Ray Birdwell, recently sold the former Astoria Ford site to Barry Hess, owner of the Napa Auto Parts store recently opened at the old auto dealership. Hess in turn sold a lot next to the store to Kansas City, Missouri, developers John Ferguson and Lew Wiens.
The Birdwells acquired the former grocery store property from E. Hauke & Co. in 1998, along with the auto dealership. The market has long sat vacant.
“We hope to make some major improvements to the area,” Ferguson said. “The building’s been sitting there decaying for a long time.”
The hotel will either be a Marriott or Hilton franchise between 90 and 96 rooms, Ferguson said. The company does not know how many stories the hotel will be or when plans will be brought to the city, he added.
Kevin Cronin, the community development director in Warrenton, has served as the project planner on the proposal but deferred comments to the developers.
Ferguson runs Ferguson Hotel Development, and Wiens leads a management company called True North Hotel Group. The two have been developing properties around the U.S. since the 1980s and recently formed Astoria Hotel Investors.
The developers looked at several sites around the city but found the former grocery store the best option, Ferguson said. The property includes 2 acres on land and nearly 20 acres extending over Youngs Bay.
The company does not plan to build over the water, Ferguson said.
Other hotel proposals in Astoria have met stiff resistance over concerns about parking, workforce shortages, historic preservation and blocking Columbia River views. A four-story Fairfield Inn & Suites proposed by Hollander Hospitality near the former Ship Inn restaurant along the river was significantly revised after being rejected by city design and historic preservation committees.
Such concerns were part of the reason Ferguson said the partnership opted for a site farther away from downtown. The former grocery store is zoned general commercial, with lodgings permitted outright, and is outside any historic district.