Thursday, March 26, 2015

Hotel on the Falls reopens today

The view from the balcony of the Hotel on the Falls' Presidential Suite, on the eighth floor.
The Hotel on the Falls, an Idaho Falls landmark for almost 40 years, is back in business today, with a new owner and refurbished rooms.

The 85-room, eight-story building at 475 River Parkway, which dates back to 1978, when it was known as the Westbank Tower, was sold at auction Jan. 22. The new owner is Idaho Falls Lodge LLC, a company affiliated with Colorado Hospitality Services Inc. of Northglenn, Colo. Colorado Hospitality Services is owned by Bruce Rahmani of Denver, Colo. The Bonneville County Assessor’s Office reported the sale price to be $2.3 million.

It had gone into receivership in June 2014, when the property’s  then-owner, Idaho Hotel Holdings, filed a default judgment against the management company, Om Shiv Ganesh LLC, for more than $3.4 million. In the interim, it was run by Westerra Realty & Management, a Salt Lake City company that found the new buyers.

"It's in pretty good shape, really," said Brady Kraupp, who has managed the property throughout the transition and oversaw the refurbishing of rooms. There are new TVs, artwork, linens and furniture, but the eight-story hexagonal tower still boasts a lot of its old character. ”I could be partial, but we still have the best view and the biggest rooms,” Kraupp said.

The Westbank dates back to 1928, when Ferris Clark, son of Mayor Barzilla W. Clark and the grandson of Joseph A. Clark, Idaho Falls' first mayor, built two log buildings by the Snake River to accommodate an ever-growing number of motorists on their way to Yellowstone National Park. Over 52 years, Clark expanded the Westbank, first with a red brick motel, then a restaurant and lounge, then a two-story red brick motel. Clark is said to have had plans for a second tower, but declining health sent him into retirement in 1980. He died in 1987 at age 79.

Since the '80s, the hotel has gone by different names, including Red Lion and finally the Hotel on the Falls. Until 2012, the property was owned by Jim and Sharon Bennett and Robert and Sharon Paulus, the children of Olga Gustafson Rigby. In 2012, the hotel was deeded to trusts set up by the families while local businessman Dane Watkins bought the motel, restaurant and lounge and convention center.

Watkins told BizMojo Idaho in November he is looking for someone interested in leasing or buying the business. Signs in the door to the restaurant say "Closed for remodeling," but they're waiting to hear what any potential operator might say needs to be done, he said, adding that he recognizes the site's great location and historical significance.
Empty boxes in the hotel lobby, waiting to be carted away.