A boutique hotel for the Surf District?

(Above) Three Stars Plaza sits on the west edge of the Surf District along North Shore Drive.  The Surf Ballroom, its education center and two restaurants are located east of the park. -Reporter photo by Chris Barragy.

Feasibility study will drive Destination Iowa grant application

by Marianne Gasaway

Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds’ announcement of a $100 million investment in creating unique destinations that give visitors a reason to explore and residents a reason to stay has caught the attention of local leaders.

Representatives of the Surf Ballroom and the North Iowa Cultural Center & Museum, the group that oversees the facility’s operations, is partnering with the City of Clear Lake to begin exploring the possibility of a boutique-style hotel within the Surf District.  

Monday, the City Council gave its approval to fund a $10,000 feasibility report for such a project.  Patek Hospitality Consultants Inc., of Sussex, Wis., will perform the work and is expected to submit its findings within approximately 60 days.  The company recently provided a study for the City that culminated in the development of the Marriott Fairfield hotel in the new Courtway Park subdivision by Interstate 35.

Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds announced the Destination Iowa program this week.  Funds received from the federal government through the American Rescue Plan Act will be used to provide grants to help communities move forward on “transformational, shovel-ready attractions.  Cities, counties, non-profits and other organizations can apply for Destination Iowa grants from four separate funds: Economically Significant Development, Outdoor Recreation, Tourism Attraction, and Creative Placemaking.

City Administrator Scott Flory said if the hotel feasibility report is positive, the Surf District project would make application under the Creative Placemaking initiative.

“The placemaking initiative is a little bit unique,” Flory told the Council Monday.  “They are looking for maybe four or five signature-type projects for the state of Iowa. One of the targets is to have the ability to bring in visitors from outside of the state of Iowa. Given our proximity to Wisconsin and Minnesota, we’re in good shape to do that with a project down in the Surf District.”

Flory also noted the community already has a comprehensive plan for the Surf District, including infrastructure and streetscape details which he said provide a good foundation and head start on the application process.  He suggested RDG Consulting, which created the plan, be brought in to update the document.

Flory said the Destination Iowa grant opportunity provides a unique opportunity for Clear Lake.  Due to the community’s strong financial position, with virtually no debt and one of the lowest tax rates in the state, Clear Lake does not usually compete for grants intended to help those communities facing financial challenges.

“We’re not going to get much help except for these kinds of unique, once-in-a-lifetime, generational kinds of opportunities.   We think we can compete on the merits of the project— it’s a National Historic Landmark, its National Rock and Roll Hall of Fame status, an attraction well beyond Iowa and the Midwest, reaching internationally.  

Jeff Nicholas, from the North Iowa Cultural Center & Museum Board, said they support the project.  

“We stand willing, ready and able to push forward and see anything we can do to make this project go,” said Nicholas.  “Our goal is always to make the Surf the best it can be. If this helps us and helps this community, we’re all in favor.”

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