DEADWOOD | The ownership group of the Deadwood Mountain Grand has proposed a $35 million condo-hotel expansion they believe would attract new, well-heeled visitors to this mountain town.
The proposal to build The Chalets at Deadwood Mountain Grand calls for 103 one- and two-bedroom units on a steep hillside known as McGovern Hill. Under the plan, owners would be entitled to three weeks of occupancy during the year, while the condos would be rented out the remaining 49 weeks.
“I think it would move Deadwood into an entirely different category in terms of a destination,” Deadwood Mountain Grand CEO Robert Ekman said Tuesday from Nashville. “Today, the town offers a series of hotels and standard rooms. These will be more like condominiums with kitchens and washers and dryers, allowing people to stay longer."
Ekman, who formerly spent 19 years as vice president of franchise sales and development for North America for Intercontinental Hotels Group, which owns some 3,000 hotels around the world, said the new condos could attract a high-profile clientele not now seen in Deadwood.
But some residents have already expressed opposition to the proposal, saying it would attract visitors who aren't committed to Deadwood's future as a community and historic destination, and that it would mar the view on a prominent hillside.
Longtime resident and Historic Preservation Commissioner Lynn Namminga said the project would destroy an entire hillside and he questioned whether absentee condo-owners would contribute anything to the community.
“There are so many aspects to this that people object to,” Namminga said. “This would be a community of millionaires who would buy these places; people with enormous amounts of money. It will completely destroy the character of that hill and, as far as I’m concerned, of Deadwood.”
Ekman said the condo-hotel concept had been successfully deployed in mountain towns and beach destinations around the globe and that the DMG’s ownership group had been planning to develop property adjacent to the Deadwood Grand for a decade. As envisioned, The Chalets project is estimated to cost $30 million to $35 million and would be constructed over an 18-month period on land currently zoned commercial, he said.
Following presentations last week before the Deadwood Historic Preservation Commission and Monday night before the Deadwood City Commission, at which some residents expressed objections to the project, Mayor Chuck Turbiville said Tuesday that proponents recognized they have several hurdles to surmount before they break ground on the new development.
First, the DMG ownership group would need to satisfy any concerns of the Historic Preservation Commission, followed by a review with the city Planning and Zoning Board. Finally, the City Commission would need to sign off on the proposed project after discussing its potential impact on all city departments, Turbiville noted.
“At the present time, there are still questions as to access, the road coming in and going out, as well as its impact on the view-shed,” Turbiville said. “With every new housing project, they all have the same issues: Who is going to pay for all the water, sewer and roads and all the improvements? These questions are normal.”
But, the mayor noted that developers willing to make a multimillion-dollar investment in a town of about 1,000 residents said a lot about the lure of Deadwood.
“We recognize these are investors who are experienced in these types of projects,” Turbiville said. “The fact they want to make that kind of investment and take that kind of risk shows we are doing something right."
But support is far from universal, at least so far.
Nearly three dozen residents and a smattering of Deadwood merchants and hotel operators packed Monday’s City Commission meeting. While most remained quiet, some expressed concerns over the impact such a massive development would have on the historical nature of the community and the residential area on McGovern Hill.
Some residents of the McGovern Hill neighborhood also asked who would be responsible for paying to improve access roads leading to the condo-hotel development.
Ekman, who has been involved with similar projects throughout North America and whose company recently built a resort near a small community north of Nashville similar in size to Deadwood, said he hoped to continue an “open dialogue” with residents and incorporate that input into The Chalets’ final design.
“Negative people tend to be louder than happy people,” he said. “Some of the commentary last night was just wrong. You don’t have to live in a place to have passion for a place, but two of our prominent owners, Tim Conrad and Mike Gustafson, have done so much for Deadwood, and they live right there.”
Ekman said his group planned to discuss the project with individual residents of McGovern Hill, and conduct a community meeting in the next four to six weeks at which the project would be discussed in-depth. Though he said the owners would like to break ground this year, he suspected that the public input and city review stages would likely delay that start-up.