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Jan. 29, 2023

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Checking in on ilani’s 14-story hotel

Building will be tallest in Clark County with nearly 300 rooms, a pool, more

By , Columbian staff writer
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Kara Fox-LaRose, president and general manager of ilani, checks out the view from a fifth-floor hotel guest room near La Center. The hotel is expected to open by May 2023.
Kara Fox-LaRose, president and general manager of ilani, checks out the view from a fifth-floor hotel guest room near La Center. The hotel is expected to open by May 2023. (Amanda Cowan/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

COWLITZ INDIAN RESERVATION — Walking up the metal construction stairs in what will eventually be ilani’s new hotel, Kara Fox-LaRose, president and general manager of ilani, points to what the company calls the heart of the house.

The area is commonly referred to in the hospitality industry as the “back of house.”

“It’s really centered around our team and our culture,” said Fox-LaRose, mentioning the areas will be spacious for crew members.

At 185 feet tall, the new hotel is the tallest building in Clark County.

The 14-story hotel is intended to be a four-diamond luxury resort, said Fox-LaRose. A lot of research went into whether the local economy and the other ilani businesses could support the hotel.

“We’re definitely confident that business will support this investment,” she said. There are plans to expand into a second tower if demand exceeds the capacity of the tower currently under construction.

The hotel will have nearly 300 rooms, including 28 suites. The largest of the suites will be about 2,000 square feet, while the smallest will be around 400 square feet. The larger suites will have multiple bedrooms and living spaces.

The suites will include floor-to-ceiling windows, high ceilings and butler pantries.

A spa will also be included in the hotel, although customers will be able to visit the spa without being hotel guests.

The indoor pool area will have a 26-foot-wide retractable door, along with windows surrounding the room. An outdoor patio will sit adjacent to the pool area. The heated pool will be accompanied by a jacuzzi, cabanas, private showers and restrooms, towel service, a café and bar all in the pool area.

“We thought the region and this place really deserved a place to go and offer relaxation,” Fox-LaRose said, standing on the pool deck, which is still under construction.

The lobby will include a bar and a bistro and a sitting area inside, as well as an outdoor terrace with fireplaces.

“The architects definitely took a similar approach to the existing building that we have at ilani in terms of cultural inheritance, value and meaning,” said Fox-LaRose.

“Interpretation in the hotel lobby is a little bit more intentional,” she added. A Cowlitz Tribe logo made out of mosaic tiles will adorn the room’s double-sided fireplace.

The hotel will be child-friendly, with the addition of a Kids Quest program situated between the hotel and casino. The program, which is independent of the hotel, will provide child care services for children 4 months and older, as well as an arcade for teenagers.

Fox-Rose expects the hotel to grow the casino’s audience.

“It definitely gives us an opportunity to expand our reach in terms of drawing visitors to the region that may feel we may be a bit too far for a day trip,” she said. It also will give casino customers the chance to extend their stay.

At the top of the 14-story building is a 110-seat restaurant — cuisine still to be determined. But from the restaurant, customers will be able to see the three surrounding mountains on a clear day.

Because of potential supply chain issues, the Howard S. Wright construction crew and Fox-LaRose’s team decided to order materials domestically. The blue glass covering the building came from Minnesota and the aluminum came from Kentucky.

Fox-LaRose and her team were able to visit the glass manufacturer to select the colored glass for the building’s exterior.

“It’s an amazing royal blue. I love it,” said Fox-LaRose. “It really reflects the landscape when you’re pulling up, whether it’s sunset or morning or just clear.”

In one of the standard rooms, blue carpeting already covers the floors, and the bathroom, which is made in modules in Portland, is already installed. Eventually a stone shelf will be installed opposite the bed. The rooms will have a minimalist design.

The hotel will have self-parking, and VIP and valet parking. A concrete patio is also in the works, to serve as an outdoor smoking section for casino patrons.

Fox-LaRose expects the hotel to open by May, and it will begin taking reservations in January.

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