Havre Daily News
A new hotel, and possibly a popular national restaurant chain, are coming to the hill west of Havre.
Bill Dritshulas, owner of the Best Western Great Northern Inn Hotel and the Duck Inn, said Tuesday he has purchased 6.34 acres near the Montana Department of Transportation building with plans to build a 150-suite hotel complex, with lots of room left over for other interested businesses to lease.
BootHill Properties, a company owned by Dritshulas, his wife, Judi, and their son, John, bought the lot on the north side of U.S. Highway 2 this week. The hotel will be the BootHill Executive Suites Hotel, and a national restaurant chain is also looking at the site, he said. His hopes for the property, once the hotel is finished, is to have a "mini-market" on the site, with five to seven other businesses or professional offices leasing space on the lot.
The purchase comes in the midst of a flurry of development activity around Havre. A subdivision sought by Wal-Mart was approved by the Hill County Commission on Friday, taking the sale of the property to Wal-Mart a step closer to reality. In addition, work to turn the former Heritage Center into a restaurant and brew pub has begun, and plans for both a special events center and a visitor center on the Hill County Fairgrounds are moving along.
"We've had a lot more interest in vacant lots and open property that have access to public water and sewer" west of town, Hill County planner Clay Vincent said in an interview two weeks ago.
After seeing great growth in the oil and gas industry and receiving many requests from the increasing number of business customers for more spacious rooms, Dritshulas decided a high-end, all-suite facility was the right choice.
The oil and gas people make up a large amount of his current hotel's clientele, he said, and he thinks that industry will continue to bring money into town.
"Havre is going to grow because of the oil and gas situation," he said. "If you look at a map of Montana, and you look at the northern tier, Havre's right in the center," he said. "(Havre is) the hub of the Hi-Line, and it's going to continue to be."
This type of hotel is just what people are asking for.
"This is a different type of hotel," Dritshulas said during an interview in the office of the Great Northern Inn, a 65-room hotel he built seven years ago. That hotel's customers are asking for more amenities and more space, and the new hotel will provide them.
Last year he added 10 oversized rooms to the Great Northern Inn annex that's connected to the Duck Inn, and has two suites in the Great Northern.
A suite is larger than a regular hotel room and sometimes has more than one room. The plans for the rooms are not finished, but all will include a desk area as well as "state of the art amenities" including high-speed Internet, refrigerators, and microwaves, Dritshulas said.
"This is a new concept. This is going to be an all suites hotel. People are requesting that more and more, and I figured this would be a niche that could fit in Havre," he said.
Janna Faber, operations officer for Duck Inn Inc., thinks Havre could use another hotel.
"There's always a demand for new rooms," she said. "There's definitely a need. We can't rent any more rooms because we're full, and it's hard to turn people away."
"Our business is very good," Dritshulas said. "We built (the Best Western) in 1998, and we're running on almost full capacity."
The hotel will sit on two of the lot's acres, he said. It will include a 200- to 300-capacity banquet hall, a swimming pool and a workout room. There will also be an interpretive center on the property overlooking the badlands and the Milk River, Dritshulas said. The center will have reading materials and exhibits that "explain the origins of Havre and the Milk River Valley," he said.
The building is being designed by Dave Hurlburt of Ackley-Hurlburt & Associates of Billings. Hurlburt has worked with Dritshulas for 20 years, Dritshulas said, and designed the Great Northern Inn, the Emporium Food and Fuel station, Havre RV Park, the Duck Inn and the Dritshulas home. Lotton Construction Inc. will begin work after the finished plans for the complex come back in late fall or early winter, Dritshulas said.
It is too early to know when ground will be broken on the project, he said. The hotel will be a franchise of a national hotel chain, but Faber said they were not yet talking with any companies.
Dritshulas first began looking at the property about three years ago, but his interest became serious only in the last year, he said. He had originally been planning to build an addition onto the Great Northern Inn with 32 to 35 suites, he said.
"Once I got the costs back, I figured I might as well build a new hotel," he said.
A few different businesses, besides the national restaurant chain, already have expressed interest in the spaces around the hotel, he said. Some of these businesses are local, and some are not. He declined to say who the restaurant chain or the other businesses were.
Staff writer Ellen Thompson contributed to this story.