Letter of intent with hotel developer finalized

by Marianne Gasaway

Clear Lake City leaders gave their unanimous approval Monday night to a letter of intent for a potential development agreement supporting a hotel and conference center project in the new Courtway Park subdivision.

City Administrator Scott Flory discussed progress on the proposed development just east of Interstate 35 on the north side of Highway 122.  Flory likened the deal to the path the City took in preparation for McKesson locating in Clear Lake.

“If this were not a good deal and in our best interest I would have walked away,” said Flory, adding he is about 70 percent confident the project will take place.

Like they were in the McKesson deal, Council representatives are following Flory’s advice without knowing all of the specifics, such as the name of the hotel/conference center chain.

The Council approved the letter of intent with WillowStream LLC for a project to be located on 5.8 acres identified as Lot 4 in the Courtway Park Subdivision.

The Courtway Park Subdivision encompasses 64 acres just east of Interstate 35, extending to North 32nd Street, north of Highway 122.  The six lots closest to Highway 122 are zoned as highway commercial, while the northern five lots are zoned light industrial.

The letter of intent specifies the hotel will not be less than a mid-scale brand hotel and with a minimum of 70 rooms.  The accompanying 9,000 square foot conference center would be a 600 person venue, and a 5,000 square foot restaurant would bring the estimated cost of the development to between $16 and $18 million.

The City will offer a $4 million forgivable loan; There will be no transferring of city funds until after the project is completed.  No taxpayer revenue will be used.  The city will rely on the new anticipated property and sales taxes generated from the hotel and conference center development, as well as other future developments in the subdivision, to help offset a city economic development contribution to the project.

The project must also create not less than 25 full time equivalent jobs by 2021.

The City’s Planning and Zoning Commission is expected to review a site plan for the project at its Sept. 25 meeting.

Construction on the hotel and conference center is proposed to begin in October, with a scheduled completion date of Oct. 31, 2020.

Flory added that the unnamed developer has experience, an excellent track record and is bankable.  He speculated the prospective project would be the most significant of its kind between Ames, Iowa and Owatonna, Minn. on Interstate 35.

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