Two historically iconic restaurant buildings are about to be replaced by a new hotel development on Astoria's west end waterfront. Many would remember the Ship Inn when Jill and Fenton Stokeld opened the place based on an English pub-style bar with a dining room along the waterfront off 2nd street. It was a place where local notables hung out. Just as popular in its heyday was the Dutch Cup that shared the parking lot with Ship Inn. The Dutch Cup was comfort food heaven for fishermen, loggers, and affordable family dining. The restaurants eventually changed hands and the Dutch Cup became Stephanie's Cabin which is vacant today. A big change may be coming.
As Astoria grows in popularity developers are looking for opportunities to build in a town famous for its reluctance to accept change that does not fit with the way the town sees itself. The recent rejection of the "off the shelf" plan submitted by giant discounter Dollar General for a new store on the east end of town is a good example of what happens when developers ignore the town's design standards based on years of public input that created the city development code and various master plans and design overlay zones.
That may be the reason Sam Mullen reached out to Astoria City Councilor Zetty Nemlowill recently. Mullen works for Bellingham, Washington based Hollander Hospitality which Mullen says has purchased the Ship Inn and Stephanie's Cabin properties with an eye to building a new hotel and associated restaurant. Hollander has been in the hospitality business for over 40 years and typically builds Marriot-branded projects. The company has another property just west of the Holiday Inn Express on Port of Astoria property where a second hotel is envisioned by the company. Building along the river front generally stirs local controversy.
On Monday night, during the Astoria City Council meeting, Councilor Nemlowill talked about the conversation she had with Mullen. She said Hollander is working toward building two hotels in Astoria and the Ship Inn property is first in line. Early planning calls for the new hotel to incorporate the Ship Inn building into a lobby area and that the Stepanie's Cabin building footprint will be reduced to make way for more on site parking. At this point, the company may lease out the restaurant to an operator or run it themselves. No permit applications have been received yet by the city so we don't know much more about specific plans.
If the project goes forward it would require design review by the city because it is in the Bridge Vista overlay in the River Front Vision Plan. Nemlowill said she believes a hotel would be an outright use on that property with a height limit of 45 feet. Waterfront development north of the trolley tracks is restricted.