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Apr-01-2006 16:51printcomments

Developer Wants Hotel Next to Troubled Oregon Garden

Making the Oregon Garden a destination for a larger market is priority.

Oregon Garden logo

(SILVERTON AP) - A California hotel developer will take over operations of the Oregon Garden tourist attraction in hopes of rescuing it, according to an interim agreement.

Moonstone Hotel Properties plans a 100-unit hotel overlooking the Silverton attraction.

"It's the hotel that's going to make the money, not the garden," said John Lattimer, Marion County's chief administrative officer.

Marion County and Silverton officials said the deal might be the garden's best chance to overcome the garden's financial problems, although major creditors, including the city and county, might not be repaid in full for many years.

Under the interim agreement, Moonstone will begin managing the 80-acre garden starting in April.

But the final agreement among Moonstone, the garden's creditors, and a court-appointed receiver needs to be approved by a Marion County judge at an April 19 hearing. Any of the garden's creditors could raise objections.

The Cambria, California, company uses gardens at its 10 hotels, most of them in California.

"Our short-term goal is to restore community faith in the Oregon Garden as a viable attraction," said Lynda Gill, the director of operations for Moonstone.

"Our long-term goal is to help revitalize The Oregon Garden and put it back on the map as one of the nation's premier garden destinations."

Since September, a court-appointed receiver has run the garden, which city and county officials had hoped would be a boost to the economy. It opened in 2001, but attendance has proved disappointing.

Michael Batlan, the garden's receiver, said in court papers filed last week that he "does not believe that The Oregon Garden by itself can generate sufficient funds to pay its ongoing expenses and claims of the county and other creditors."

Moonstone hopes to begin building its Silverton hotel by this summer, company officials said.

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