The Windmill Inn, a closed hotel complex at Ashland's Exit 14 off Interstate 5, has been sold to the owners of the downtown Ashland Springs Hotel, who say they plan to invest millions in sprucing it up.
According to public records, Doug and Becky Neuman and a partner paid $1.6 million for the 14-acre resort property, which opened in 1978 as Ashland Hills and at its heyday was valued at $10.6 million.
In 2007, all of the original two- and three-story buildings, which housed 160 guest rooms and a banquet space for 700 people, were closed.
A new building near the parking lot currently operates as the Village Suites at Ashland Hills Hotel and will remain open during a remodel that could be completed by Spring 2014.
The Neumans said Friday they plan to invest up to $6 million renovating the rooms, restaurant, lounge, meeting spaces and gardens. They plan to hire 100 people to work in management, food and banquet service, housekeeping and grounds keeping.
"A full-service convention center and hotel have been a missing piece in Ashland," said Sandra Slattery of the Ashland Chamber of Commerce. "This will allow Ashland to attract large groups for meetings, conventions and events in the off-season and existing lodging facilities will benefit from the overflow."
The property's conference-banquet space is second in size in Southern Oregon only to Seven Feathers Casino Resort, which is 85 miles north in Canyonville.
Doug Neuman said the property will have room rates around $160 in the summer season.
The restaurant will be more fun than fancy, he said, and will support local food and wine producers. There are also two tennis courts and a pool.
"A lot of people have memories of special occasions and holidays spent at Ashland Hills," said Neuman, who stayed here with his family when they decided to move to Ashland from Santa Barbara in 1986. "We want to provide that opportunity again."
The Neumans, who also own Larks Restaurant in the Ashland Springs Hotel, Waterstone Spa, Lithia Springs Resort and formerly Lake of the Woods Resort, learned the property was for sale five weeks ago.
They acted quickly to buy it from Windmill Inns of America, a Scottsdale, Ariz., company that owns three Arizona hotels but no longer manages the Roseburg or Ashland hotels.
Windmill Inns of America paid $5.4 million for the Ashland property in 1995.
The Neumans and an undisclosed partner, acting as Ashland Hills Hotel LLC, bought the property on April 1.
The Neumans said they will change the name back to Ashland Hills.
On Friday, Doug and Becky Neuman were on the site, along with Ashland Springs Hotel General Manager Don Anway and the hotel's director of marketing Karolina Wyszynska Lavagnino.
Many members of the Ashland Springs Hotel team will manage the Ashland Hills property 4 miles away on the south end of town.
They intend to work with the existing buildings' "good bones," said Doug Neuman, but they will remove select walls to improve the flow in rooms and capture more of the mountain and garden views.
They will retain the "retro-lodge feel," said Becky Neuman and play up the 1970s motif by keeping the wooden beams, pendant globe lighting, and blue and orange tiles in bathrooms.
She says she is still "conceptualizing" the final look, but is inspired by Jonathan Adler's design at the stylish Parker Palm Springs.
"I am thinking of the word, 'swank,'" said Becky Neuman, fashionable in orange pants and sporting a two-tone tote. "We will keep the chunky timbers but might add burl wood, because we are celebrating all things Oregon."
The Chamber's Slattery said she was relieved to hear that the Neumans were making a commitment to restore and improve the once-celebrated Ashland Hills.
"I remember when there were events in the ballroom, fine dining and well-known musicians would perform in the lounge," she said. "It's always sad when a property is in bad shape and you worry if someone will demolish it. Instead, the Neumans' concept will draw people from this community and visitors. Did I mention that I'm happy?"
Reach reporter Janet Eastman at 541-776-4465 or email@example.com.