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BRAD MEIER: Growing downtown, when will the hotel start? | Opinion

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It’s a common question around town, is the hotel project for downtown going to happen? The initial announcement to the public about this project took place several months ago. The planning and partnerships have been taking place ever since that time.

The “Judd Project” — as I often refer to it because of local visionary Steve Judd’s dedication and investment into this project, but more formally known as Owatonna Historic Partners, LLC (or OHP) — continues to move forward. The OHP, being led by Jim Kelly and Steve Hedberg of HK Hospitality, are finalizing their operating agreements right now.

You may recall this project will develop on the 200 block of North Cedar Avenue and will include a new hotel and restaurants. In the last year since the formation of the partnership, their market research indicates very favorable findings for profitability and sustainability of the project. They also tell us that the longer-term findings have exceeded expectations for making downtown a travel destination for tourism, business travel and meetings.

Each year Owatonna welcomes bus group tours, events, association meetings and athletic events that attract thousands of people to our community to visit historic buildings, host meetings and attend events.

Interviews with key business leaders earlier in the year, which I participated in, indicate a need for another level of accommodation for business travel to provide a level of service required for their guests. Downtown, upscale accommodations were seen as a positive addition by these leaders in addition to the great existing properties that serve our community.

Additionally, the new five-story apartment complex going up right now, the recently opened Torey’s Restaurant, the new Ace Hardware, and growing energy around downtown Owatonna indicates the right timing for this project that will continue growth downtown.

The project in its current form has been moving forward for about a year, which is not a long time considering the details and agreements that need to be put together before it is all complete. As details come together, anticipation grows for yet another exciting addition to our transforming downtown.

Brad Meier is the president/CEO of the Owatonna Area Chamber of Commerce and Tourism. He may be reached at 507-451-7970 or via email at bmeier@owatonna.org.



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