Developers plan Hilton hotel in downtown Oak Harbor

Developers are planning to build an extended-stay Hilton hotel in downtown Oak Harbor.

Developers are planning to build an extended-stay Hilton hotel on a large empty lot in downtown Oak Harbor.

Oak Harbor resident Sean Byrne and former resident Donald Vale, owners of Efficiency Properties LLC, are working with the hotel chain to construct a 102-room Home2 Suites that will include a conference space, a swimming pool and other amenities. The rooms will have full kitchens and living spaces meant for longer stays; south-facing rooms would have views of the water.

The property is between Pioneer Way and Bayshore Drive and next to Hal Ramaley Park. Byrne proposes to improve the park and surrounding area with additional landscaping.

The business partners and downtown officials emphasize the prospects of a hotel bringing additional foot traffic downtown and being a catalyst for further revitalization and development in the Pioneer Way area.

“All of the merchants are excited about having a hotel down there,” said Margaret Livermore, executive director of the Main Street Association. She added that a new hotel will help with a scarcity of hotel beds during big events.

Byrne said he’s “a big believer in synergy” and that the city needs a project like this in the Pioneer Way area.

“Nothing like this has been done downtown for 40 years,” he said.

Livermore said the conference space will be especially valuable for the community since the city has limited large meeting spaces. Byrne said the conference space will be big enough to accommodate a couple of hundred people.

The proposed 60,000-square-foot building will be built on a one-acre parcel of land that the nonprofit organization Low Income Housing Institute, or LIHI, planned to build an affordable housing project in 2018. Downtown merchants successfully blocked the project, arguing that it didn’t conform to zoning, which is Central Business District, or CBD. One of the concerns was the lack of ground-floor retail.

Byrne said the hotel is an allowed use for the zoning, which means a conditional use permit is not needed. According to the Island County Assessor’s Office, Efficiency Properties LLC purchased the property this year from LIHI for $575,000; the organization bought the land in 2018 for $600,000.

In addition, Byrne explained that the project is in an Opportunity Zone, which is part of a federal program for economically distressed communities. New investments in the zone may be eligible for preferential tax treatment.

The city of Oak Harbor reports that the project is in a pre-application phase. No permit applications have been submitted at this point. The project will require a site plan review, a landscape plan, a boundary line adjustment and civil plans.

Byrne said both he and Vale have strong ties to the community, although Efficiency Properties LLC is technically based in Kirkland. They both graduated from Oak Harbor High School while Byrne still lives in the city.

The business partners have built commercial and residential projects across Western Washington. Their proposal is to build the project and partner with the hotel business to run it, Byrne said.

Byrne said a challenge in designing the hotel is to conform to city rules while also following requirements from Hilton.

“I really think this will be an advantage all around for the community,” he said.

Hilton front