BEMIDJI – The Country Inn & Suites is inching closer toward reality, but it likely will not be complete in time for all of the conventions booked for 2013 at the Sanford Center.
The 121-room hotel is planned to be attached to the city’s Sanford Center. Bemidji City Manager John Chattin said the city expects ground to break in the next two weeks.
“We’ve waited a long time for this,” Chattin said. “It will be a great day when they break ground.”
Many local residents will be disappointed, though, as a previously announced Buffalo Wild Wings is no longer planned to be the restaurant attached to the Country Inn & Suites.
A Crooked Pint Ale House, instead, is now attached to the project, Chattin said.
Crooked Pint Ale House offers classic pub fare, according to its website.
Chattin said the Crooked Pint Ale House is under the same franchise as the Green Mill so the two restaurants will not be competitors. He said he did not know why Buffalo Wild Wings was no longer attached to the project.
Project developer R.S. Tripp Snyder could not immediately be reached for comment Thursday.
Snyder met last week with the Midwest Minnesota Development Commission in Detroit Lakes to discuss the tax credits available for the project. Chattin said that meeting went well and a letter is expected today or early next week from the MMCDC detailing their plans.
The original purchase agreement was signed by the city and Bay Ridge Properties, the development group, in March for the purchase 2.17 acres of south shore land for $756,202.
A revised purchase agreement is now being reviewed by city staff, Chattin said. Once that is finalized and signed, closing on the land would be scheduled.
“We’re looking at signing the developer’s agreement, closing on the land and probably getting the golden shovels and the hard hats out (for groundbreaking) all on the same day,” he said.
Kraus-Anderson, the company hired to build the project, is ready to begin digging dirt the day after closing occurs, he noted.
“There’s a good chance we could be ready to close on the land and sign the developer’s agreement within the next five to 10 days,” Chattin said.
The hotel has long been considered a necessity for large-scale conventions booked at the Sanford Center, which opened in October 2010.
Three conventions are now scheduled for the Sanford Center in 2013.
Between 150 and 300 people are anticipated to attend the 2013 Republican CD7 convention March 15-16, according to Andy Long, regional vice president for VenuWorks, the firm contracted by the city to manage the Sanford Center.
Long, currently serving as the center’s interim operations manager since Roger Swanson was fired Aug. 8, said event planners for that convention were aware there would not be a hotel completed by that date.
From April 25-28, a Rotary district convention has been booked at the Sanford Center, Long said.
He said that event was scheduled with the intention that the hotel would be completed. VisitBemidji is now working to secure hotels in the area and to arrange for transportation.
The third convention planned is the Minnesota State Fire Department Convention, set for June 19-22. Long said about 400 are expected to take part.
That event also was booked with the expectation that the hotel would be done, but Sanford Center will continue to work with VisitBemidji to make arrangements, Long said.
“It has been a challenging situation based on the probability of not having the hotel project completed in time,” Long said by email Thursday afternoon. “As with all events and with construction projects, you plan for what you think will happen and then adjust according to the circumstances and situation at the time of the event.”
Meanwhile, work is progressing on the DoubleTree Hotel and the Green Mill expansion.
The Edgewater Group, the development company that constructed both the Hampton Inn & Suites and the Green Mill, is expanding the Green Mill and building an attached 92-room DoubleTree Hotel.
The Green Mill will have additional seating by the bar, skylights and a conference room to hold an additional 60 people.
The DoubleTree is planned to be six stories. Lakeside rooms will have exterior balconies.
A building permit for the DoubleTree was issued by the city on Aug. 13.