Compare photos of North Coast towns now against photos taken 25 years ago and the effects of the lodging boom are easy to spot.
Cross the Astoria-Megler Bridge and the upscale Cannery Pier Hotel stands out on the waterfront; come to town from Highway 30 and the Comfort Suites and Hampton Inn loom large by the river.
Seasides Wyndham Resort towers over the Prom, and new and renovated hotels dot the landscape.
On the Long Beach Peninsula with the notable exception of the popular new WorldMark by Wyndham Resort in Long Beach the effects are a little more difficult to spot. There are some obvious exceptions, but most of the new construction blends into the landscape. And much of the boom involved renovating older lodgings.
Skip Hauke, Executive Director of the Astoria-Warrenton Chamber of Commerce, said the Chamber sees no signs the areas growth will top out any time soon.
The Astoria-Warrenton areas become a destination; people are excited about coming here, Hauke said. Thats why we have a new Hampton, the Cannery Pier; we have some nice lodgings and some great restaurants. We have a heck of a reputation for the culinary portion of our tourism.
Astoria used to be a drive-through community, said City Manager Paul Benoit. Astoria was never a destination; it was a place people drove through to get to the beach.
That began to change when the Comfort Suites, then the Holiday Inn Express set up shop on the waterfront, he said. Later the Cannery Pier Hotel, the Hotel Elliott, the Commodore and the Hampton Inn moved in.
As these properties developed, Astorias economy was transitioning, he said. We continue to be strongly resource based people dont think it, but fishing and timber are still strong parts of our economy.
Tourism was building in the late 90s, early 2000s, he said. The areas first out-of-town visitors, Lewis and Clark, helped drive that interest in Astoria, Benoit added.
Because of the Lewis and Clark bicentennial, travel writers were dispatched from all over the country, and they came to our town and wrote about our history and our geography and our architecture, and they ended up writing stories that got front-page billing in major newspapers across the country, he said. At the same time cruise ships were coming, so we just saw Astoria transitioning to a destination . And we just saw the lodging industry responding to that.
At the same time, theres not much room left for more new development, Benoit said. But he uses the Hotel Elliott as an example of repurposing an Astoria property for lodging as a way of finding more room for more rooms.
You could rent rooms by the week there, but it was never a hotel, he said. (They) took an old building and refurbished it, and I think we may see more of that in Astoria.
Unlike Astoria, Warrenton has plenty of room for more hotels.
Hauke said he knows of no plans for new lodgings in Warrenton, but the city has plenty of room for new hotels.
The city has experienced a different kind of boom in recent years, with a Costco, a Home Depot, an enlarged Lums Auto Center, Ocean Crest Chevrolet Cadillac Buick GMC, Warrenton Kia and several other businesses setting up shop in the open spaces along Highway 101.
The Peninsula experienced its own building boom in recent years, said Carol Zahorsky, who handles public relations for the Peninsula. New lodgings have been built, including the Inn at Discovery Coast, the Worldmark by Wyndham and the Audubon Cottage, but just as significant are the older lodgings that have been rejuvenated.
Zahorsky points to the Adrift Hotel in Long Beach as a prime example.
They took a run-down property and made it into something thats fun to be at and such a great property, she said. Its sustainable and eco-friendly, so its a great direction for the future of the Peninsula, rather than seeing great big skyscrapers on the beach where you cant even see the beach any more.
As the economy rebounds, the trend toward building new lodgings and renovating older ones may continue on the Peninsula, but the look and feel of the area is likely to remain the same, Zahorsky said.
Theres a strong population of residents that is really protective of the character of the place, and in a really good way, she said.
Jon Rahl, director of marketing for the City of Seaside, said the tower hotels that have moved into Seaside may dominate the skyline, but there are still plenty of smaller lodgings that older folks remember from childhood.
He cites the Sandy Cove Inn as an example: They went in and completely gutted that place and turned it into something thats thriving. Beachside Inn in the heart of downtown is another example. Its a small cottage hotel that again, made some strong improvements.
The changes resonate with people and add to the appeal of the city, he said.
The variety of lodgings available in Seaside appeal to a variety of visitors, he said. Some people want the familiarity of the larger chain hotels, and some prefer the smaller mom and pops.
What we really hope is that these hotels, whether they be a large chain or a small mom and pop, is that they continue to modernize their property and keep it so that the visitor feels comfortable with the changing times, he said.
Hotels arent the only thing getting an upgrade in Seaside.
Rahl said dining is catching up with the lodging boom. Travel writers in town for a recent gathering commented that the dining scene in Seaside had changed, he said. The corndogs and popcorn are still there, but more options exist for the more sophisticated palate.
Astorias been experiencing that culinary boom for years, he said. Theyre a little bit ahead of us as far as culinary goes, but Seaside is stepping up, and Cannon Beach is right there as well. Thats one of the biggest things youll find on the coast.
Seasides banking on these trends to continue to draw visitors off the highway.
Cannon Beach, as you may have heard, is the Carmel of the Northwest, said Tom Drumheller, CEO of Escape Lodgings.
Its shops, galleries, Haystack Rock, fine dining and wide stretches of beach have attracted visitors for decades, bringing to mind the legendary Carmel-by-the-Sea in Monterey County, Calif. Cannon Beach still has a small resort community feel, and the city aims to keep it that way despite its obvious appeal to developers.
City planner Rainmar Bartl said the citys comprehensive plan, which dates back at least to the 1980s, limits the height of commercial buildings, including hotels, to three stories and limits the amount of land zoned for hotels and motels. There is no more RM land available, he said.
The limits were designed to strike a balance between the city as a residential community and a resort community he added.
There was some pretty thoughtful work that went into the citys comprehensive planning, Bartl said. The city has stayed the course, and to my way of thinking, its really paid off well.
Cannon Beach enjoyed the benefits of the North Coast building boom over the past two decades. Several new lodging properties expanded in the area including Martin Hospitality and Escape Lodgings.
Escapes Drumheller said, Everything was going crazy, then the economy took a dive (in 2007), and were starting to finally rebound from that and the housing markets starting to come back.
The growth in Cannon Beach may leave no more room for new lodgings, but Drumheller says that doesnt mean the market is crowded.
Do I think its oversaturated in Cannon Beach-Tolovana? No. he said. Do I think Im lucky to be there? Yes.
The companys hotels draw from the Interstate 5 corridor, so the economic health of those urban areas affects the North Coast, he added.
Seattle and Portland, the better they do, with Nike, Intel, Starbucks, Microsoft, Costco, Amazon those people have money and time, and they like to come to our beaches, which has been good for us, he said.