Thursday April 26, 2018
Development Review Board members got their first glimpse of plans for a five-story, 105-room airport hotel, proposed at the south end of the existing parking garage facing Airport Drive, during a sketch plan application presented to the board April 17.
Although it is a new application, the idea for an on-site hotel has been in the works for years to accommodate the needs of travelers coming from the eastern townships, southern Quebec, the Northeast Kingdom, New Hampshire and New York.
“When I say I’m excited to be here, I really am. It’s been a long road to get to this point,” said Greg Rabideau of Rabideau Architects before kicking off the hearing.
Rabideau explained that the airport started the hotel project in the summer of 2015. Rabideau Architects, Alpha Inn Management, and DEW Properties make up the architect and developer team, respectively. In January 2016 The team went to work on the design as well as the lease terms that eventually allowed the sketch plan application to come before the board.
A number of possible locations for the hotel were evaluated, but the team settled on this space as it provided the best relationship to the parking garage. The five-story hotel is proposed to be level with the garage and to create a canopy over the garage entrance; therefore, the airport is asking for a height waiver. The applicant has decided to be reviewed as a Planned Unit Development in order to resolve this issue.
Entry into the hotel will be through a two-lane canopied drive lane. One lane will be for curbside service, while the other will provide access to the fire lane between the hotel and the garage. To get to the airport from the hotel, from the first floor, patrons can use an outdoor pedestrian path that runs along the garage side of the airport before crossing over. Travelers also have access via the covered sky bridge that connects the garage to the airport.
In addition to the convenience of proximity, the airport hotel will tout other amenities, such as a restaurant, fitness center, lounge area, a ground-level patio, and an observation deck on the fifth floor where visitors can watch the aircraft come and go. These services and amenities would not be exclusive to hotel guests; they would be available to the public.
Architecturally, the building materials will be a mix of stone, brick, and clapboard siding as well as modern accents, including a roof overhang supported by modern wooden brackets. It was noted that the design is intended to harken back to “aviation’s earliest days” and distinguish itself as anything but boxy.
As for parking, the airport is not proposing any additional spots at this time. The airport currently holds 2,300 garage spaces and 400 surface spaces. Some board members were skeptical whether an added hotel with no extra parking would suffice.
“On average, it’s about 50-60 percent occupied,” Rabideau said, referring to the garage. At peak times, such as school breaks, it could spike up to about 80 percent. “They monitor that [parking] closely because it’s a big part of their revenue stream.”
The project team will conduct a traffic analysis and present the findings to the board at a future hearing.
The restaurant, which will be located on the first floor, will offer breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and could include a bar. The entire hotel could require up to approximately 30 employees.
Additionally, Rabieau presented his case for how this fits the classification of an “accessory use” to the airport. This classification is necessary since the project is in the airport district and transit overlay district, and a hotel is not an allowed use within the airport district. Proving that it fits other uses designated to serve aviation passengers and the industry is a work-around, staff said.
A hotel franchise has not yet been determined. The team will return to the board for a second-round hearing with updated analyses and details.
Construction could commence as early as this year and be up-and-operating in 2019.
SOURCE: Miranda Jonswold, Correspondent