Brian Obie says his first upscale hotel in Eugene, Ore., is doing so well that he is about to open his second — in Boise.
And he may not stop there.
Obie, the owner of Eugene’s Fifth Street Public Market, and his grandson, Casey Barrett, say they will likely build a hotel in a third city, though they are not ready to say where.
Inspired by the success of their high-end boutique hotel in Eugene — Inn at the 5th — Obie and Barrett are preparing to open Inn at 500 Capitol in Boise. Rooms are opening for booking this week. A grand opening ceremony is scheduled Feb. 11.
The partners say they have discovered a winning business formula by developing independent, fancy hotels in underserved markets, namely relatively small cities that are home to well-known universities.
“We are going to do more of this,” Obie said. “We have a good thing going here.”
Inn at 500 Capitol is a $29 million, six-story, 110-room hotel nearing completion at the intersection of two major Downtown streets, Capitol Boulevard and West Myrtle Street, just five blocks from Idaho’s Capitol.
It is one of three new hotels going up Downtown. Hyatt Place, a 152-room hotel at 199 S. 10th St., is scheduled to open in April. Residence Inn by Marriott, a 180-room hotel just across Myrtle Street from The Inn at 500 Capitol, is scheduled to open this spring.
Inn at 500 Capitol will be a larger version of the Inn at the 5th, a 69-room hotel that opened four years ago at a cost of $16 million.
With most rooms renting for $250 to $500 a night, the Inn at the 5th is Eugene’s most expensive hotel.
Like the Eugene inn, the Boise hotel will cater to wealthy travelers and business people who don’t mind paying a premium for luxury. Most rooms in the Boise hotel will rent for $250 to $500 a night, Obie said, with penthouse suites going for $700 to $800 nightly.
“We promote ourselves as a very special boutique hotel,” he said.
The hotel business is a new chapter for the 75-year-old Obie, a longtime entrepreneur who completed the purchase of Eugene’s Fifth Street Public Market shopping complex in 1985, the same year he began a term as Eugene’s mayor.
Obie had long been involved in outdoor advertising. He renovated the shopping complex and developed Obie Media, which sold ads displayed on public transit agency buses, commuter trains and benches. Obie Media became publicly traded and was acquired 11 years ago in a $43 million stock swap.
Besides the Boise hotel, Obie and Barrett are working on a proposed multi-use development in Eugene with apartments, restaurants and shops.
Obie said his Eugene hotel has exceeded expectations for occupancy and profitability, even though it is not affiliated with a national chain and reservation network. The average room occupancy rate climbed from 55 percent in its first year to slightly less than 80 percent in 2016, Obie said.
He said the experience with the Eugene hotel led him to look at other cities for a second hotel.
A few years ago, he enlisted the help of a senior marketing class at the University of Oregon, which conducted research on 43 Western cities with similar characteristics to Eugene, such as being home to a university and having an airport with airline service.
“Boise came out on top,” Obie said.
He raised $7 million from relatives and other investors to help build the $16 million Inn at the 5th. He used the same investment model for the Boise hotel, attracting $13.9 million of the projected $29 million cost from a half-dozen family members and about 40 nonrelatives. Most of the people who invested in the Eugene hotel put money into the Boise hotel, he said.
Eugene’s Selco Community Credit Union provided construction financing for Inn at the 5th. Selco and two other credit unions provided construction funding for the Boise hotel.
Inn at 500 Capitol is within a few blocks of Boise’s convention center, Zoo Boise and Boise State University.
Obie and Barrett secured the land for the hotel through a 130-year lease with the Hawkins Companies, a Boise development firm. The company’s founder, Gary Hawkins, is an investor in Inn at 500 Capitol.
Boise and its surrounding metropolitan area, with a population of 674,000, has about twice as many people as the Eugene-Springfield metro area.
Other national chain hotels are in Downtown Boise, including a Hampton Inn that is across the street from Obie’s inn. But Obie says his hotel is geared toward travelers who “want something different” and are willing to pay more for a night’s lodging.
“Our traveler wants to be pampered, nurtured,” he said. “It’s a totally different thing.”
The Boise hotel will have many of the same features as the Inn at the 5th, including rooms with gas fireplaces, double-sink bathrooms, window seats, spas, balconies, valet service, and “butler closets” that allow hotel employees and restaurant waiters to leave food and other items without guests having to open the exterior room door.
“We figured out things that worked well in Eugene, and we’ll expand on those in Boise,” Barrett said.
Like Eugene, the beds in the Boise hotel rooms will be placed at angles, instead of perpendicular to the wall, which creates niches for art and memorabilia.
The Boise inn, like the one in Eugene, will have plenty of local art, including 200 pieces of glass art attached to light fixtures and 400 paintings, photos and prints.
Fifty-seven of the hotel’s 110 rooms will be decorated with art or memorabilia to reflect different themes, Barrett said. A handful of the rooms, for example, will have items reflecting a zoo theme because they overlook Zoo Boise.
In Eugene, an upscale restaurant in a separate building, Marché, provides room service and catering to Inn at the 5th. The Boise hotel is leasing a 3,400-square-foot space on the ground floor to Richard’s, a fine-dining Boise restaurant that is moving to the hotel. Richard’s will provide room service and catering.
The hotel’s front door is on the corner of Capitol and Myrtle, set back several feet from the streets. A curved, glass overhang extends 16 feet from the building to keep guests sheltered from inclement weather. A metal sculpture depicting three cottonwood trees with leaves that move in the breeze is at the corner.
Inn at 500 Capitol will be managed by Aaron Black, who had worked for Four Seasons hotels on the Hawaiian island of Maui and in Palo Alto, Calif., and St. Louis.
The hotel has a sloped mansard roof, which came from Obie’s desire to make the building distinctive.
He said he thought of the roof treatment after looking at photographs of some of the world’s most famous hotels, including the Empress in Victoria, British Columbia.
“We tried to create something special,” he said.
INN AT 500 CAPITOL
Address: 500 Capitol Blvd.
Cost: $29 million
Owner: The Inn at 500 Capitol LLC
Architect: CSHQA, Boise
Contractor: ESI (Engineered Structures Inc.), Meridian