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Small hotel proposed in downtown Morrison seeks to be the town’s first

What does it take to get a hotel built in Morrison?

Chad Wallace wants to be the first to find out.

So far, the principal of Evergreen-based Root Architecture and Development can safely say eight meetings with the planning commission, one (unsuccessful) public hearing, a petition to appeal, hours-long discussions with the Board of Trustees and much more.

“We’re going to keep pushing forward,” Wallace said.

Morrison has a population of about 400 and is tucked near Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre, a major attraction. But hardly any concertgoers will spend the night in the town. There is one bed and breakfast, Cliff House Lodge, and a ban on short-term rentals such as AirBnb and Vrbo.

Others have proposed hotels — in 2019, Hawkins Development attempted to rezone land near C-470 in 2019 for a mixed-use project including one — but none have been approved.

But Wallace and his partner Zeke Freeman aren’t giving up.

“It became very evident that there would be some significant headwinds with the residents,” Wallace said. “Many of these projects have gotten squashed.”

Wallace and Freeman want to build a three-story, 21-room hotel at 203 and 205 Bear Creek Ave. The duo found the property almost two years ago, and want to demolish the two existing, dilapidated buildings and redevelop the site, which Wallace said is one-eighth of an acre.

Root is under contract to pay $1.2 million for the property once redevelopment plans are approved.

If all goes to plan, Root would move its office into the ground floor of the hotel and also open a small coffee shop, selling coffee from Wallace’s coffee farm in the Dominican Republic. The hotel, named Red, would also have a rooftop bar that would open only for events.

Including the real estate purchase, Wallace said the entire project would cost roughly $7.5 million.

Wallace said his 13-year-old architecture and development firm has done hospitality projects all along the Front Range, such as the nine-room Curtis Park Hotel, but this has been the most challenging to get approved. The planning commission unanimously denied Root’s plans on Feb. 13, despite Root meeting all of the zoning code and design guidelines.

“We felt like we have designed a project that to a tee abides within their zoning regulations,” Wallace said. “It doesn’t matter if we check the boxes. If (they) say no, all that work we’ve done was for nothing.”

During the public comment portion of the meeting, residents spoke both for and against the project. Some said the design didn’t fit with the historic feel, that it was too tall and that if Morrison didn’t allow AirBnbs, it certainly shouldn’t allow hotels. Others said it would be a good change for Morrison and help support local businesses.

Wallace said he’ll remain flexible to change the plans, but he also has to make sure they’re still profitable.

“It’s a give and take based on what the community residents of Morrison have been pushing back on and what we need for the project to work and pencil out business wise,” he said.

On Feb. 15, Root sent a letter to the Morrison Board of Trustees — the town’s version of City Council — appealing the planning commission’s decision. At that point, Wallace said Root had already invested $500,000 in designs, permit and review fees, engineering consultants and more.

“We’ve got quite a bit invested both from a personal standpoint with our company as well as a lot of stakeholders in the town of Morrison to try and abandon at this point,” he said.

After four hours of deliberation, the appeal was approved, meaning the trustees will make the final decision on the project in May. In the meantime, Wallace said he and the Root team have several more meetings planned to continue adapting the project into something Morrison residents would support.

“Our desire is some form of our hotel passes and it’s good for Morrison and good for us,” Wallace said.

This story was reported by our partner BusinessDen.

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