By Bay Stephens EBS Staff Writer
BIG SKY – The Wilson Hotel, Big Sky Town Center’s first branded hotel, is on schedule for a grand opening in June along with the adjacent mixed-use Plaza Lofts building. Both projects will bring additional restaurants and retailers to Big Sky. More residential development in Town Center is on the horizon, along with the potential for a night club and bowling alley.
The master plan for Town Center was approved by the county in 2000 and a hotel has been a key aspect of that plan.
“This has been a real long-term plan and one of the lynchpins is coming to fruition now, so we’re really excited about that,” said Bill Simkins of Simkins Holdings, LLC, the master developer of Town Center. “It’s been a real missing element in the meadow area, not having a full-service hotel. We’re really looking forward to its completion.”
Lone Mountain Land Company, a development branch of CrossHarbor Capital Partners, acted as the project developer of the hotel, buying the land from the Simkins family for projects that align with the Town Center vision, abiding by architectural guidelines designed to create continuity. LMLC has developed several other buildings, such as 25 Town Center Avenue, which houses Compass Cafe and 47 Town Center Avenue, home to Lotus Pad. The new hotel stands to increase body heat in Big Sky’s downtown, providing substantial lodging apart from the resort.
As a Marriot Residence Inn, each room will have a kitchenette giving vacationers the option to eat in, especially during extended stays of four to seven nights, a common length for ski trips.
The number of employees hired to run the hotel will be 40 to 50, excluding the restaurant and retail, vice president of planning and development for Lone Mountain Land Company Bayard Dominick said. LMLC is working closely with the Yellowstone Club on workforce housing solutions but are not ready to announce a plan yet, according to Dominick.
The hotel’s lobby windows will afford a direct view of Lone Mountain over an outdoor pool, which will be open year round and include a heated pool deck and barbecue area, while a sliding window will grant access to the lobby bar adjacent to the deck. Dominick said the pool will serve both hotel guests and locals.
“We look forward to having a lot of locals-friendly activities and events here to draw people in and make this a real community gathering place,” he said.
Free breakfast is included for guests and will be integrated into the lobby area, overflowing into the 3,000-square-foot event space during peak visitation times of year. The events room, capable of holding 300 people and dividing into two distinct spaces, has already been booked for two weddings. Dominick said they would like to use the space for events such as ski team banquets and community fundraisers.
On the hotel’s south side, a 5,000-square-foot restaurant space will combine with two retail spaces of 1,800 and 4,000 square feet to form the commercial space. Dominick said LMLC is near finalizing leases with tenants but at this time is not ready to announce occupants.
Adjacent to this commercial space on the south side of the hotel is the Town Center Plaza completed this fall, which will be the new home of the summer farmers market as well as concerts and myriad other events. The hotel provides ATM access and public restrooms sized for events in the plaza. The restaurant spaces in both the Wilson and the Plaza Lofts building will interface with the plaza with patio seating.
“They’ve done an amazing job developing the plaza,” Dominick said of Big Sky Town Center. “We think this is going to become a real critical hub of Big Sky and the amount they’ve invested here is really a testament to that.”
Both Dominick and Simkins agree that overall, the Wilson will breathe life into Town Center and Big Sky as a whole.
“I think it’s going to be real transformative, a gamechanger, because you’re going to have a lot of visitors coming in and that will really spur on a lot more growth for our merchants,” Simkins said.
Along with the Wilson, the Plaza Lofts is set to open sometime in April, followed by a grand opening in June, according to Dominick. The Blue Buddha Sushi Lounge and Sky Boutique have targeted openings in June as well, with The Barrel Room, a winery by Corx in Bozeman, also aimed at an early summer opening. Apartments will occupy the Lofts’ upper levels.
Across the street directly south of The Wilson and Plaza Lofts, Dominick pointed out construction crews leveling the parking lot and footprint of another LMLC building, the designs of which are still being finalized. It would be similar to the 47 Town Center Avenue building that houses Lotus Pad, with apartments—three- and four-bedroom units—on the second and third floors and a ground floor of retail and restaurant space.
Dominick said of the restaurant space on this building: “We’re actually putting in a full basement with extra height ceilings so we could potentially do a night club there.”
Simkins said, based on their research and the scuttlebutt around town, that another hotel may be called for in the wake of the Wilson’s completion, one that hits a higher-end demographic. He also said the team would love to add a bowling alley to Town Center, although there are no plans in place at this point.
After 20 years into the development of Town Center, Simkins said the project is approximately 55 percent built out.
“A lot of people think that it’s pretty explosive growth but for us it’s been a long time coming, so it’s nice seeing the buildings going up,” Simkins said. “Over the long period that we’ve worked on this project, it doesn’t feel quite as explosive.”
According to a Jan. 15 email from Town Center Project Manager Ryan Hamilton, 491 total residential entitlement units are currently approved for Town Center, which includes multi-family and single-family housing, and upper story “apartments” in the commercial district. Approximately 235 of these residential units are either built or under construction in Town Center.
More housing is likely to come online in the next 24 months, Hamilton said, depending on what project developers propose to Town Center. It’s unclear whether that housing will help alleviate Big Sky’s housing shortage as some may end up in the rental market and others up for ownership.