|By Gordon Weixel, The Bismarck Tribune,
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
May 26, 2006 - Canad Inns made its pitch to construct a 260-room, 16-floor tower hotel and water park adjacent to the Bismarck Civic Center on Thursday to an advisory committee.
The presentation came in response to the city's request for proposal to build such a facility. Two other groups also had responded but later withdrew, leaving only Canad.
Leo Ledohowski, president-CEO of the Manitoba-based Canad Inns, made the presentation with the aid of Lonnie Laffen, JLG Architects, and Niles Hushka, representing Kadrmas, Lee and Jackson Inc. and the Fifth Street Partnership, which is a local group partnering with Canad.
Advisory group members are Mayor John Warford, commissioner Sandi Tabor, Bill Daniel, Dick Tschider, judge Dan Hovland and city attorney Charlie Whitman.
The hotel-water park would be built south of the Civic Center with the facilities connected by a skywalk running over Bowen Avenue. Bowen Avenue between Fifth and Seventh Streets would be closed to accommodate more parking on the west side of the hotel.
Warford noted that Canad's plan actually increases the amount of parking, which was a stopping point for the other interested groups. Civic Center manager Dick Petersen noted that the Hyatt group pulled out because the city would not commit to building a parking ramp.
Canad's plan will substantially reshape Fifth Street from Front Avenue to the Kirkwood Mall. But Canad's proposal does come with a major caveat, that the city complete its master plan for the Civic Center, which will include a 20,000-square-foot addition for a banquet hall and offices.
"Our project, the way it is laid out, is contingent on the Civic Center's master plan being carried out. You've got the Civic Center, which is good, but it's not quite finished," Ledohowski said.
Another request from Ledohowski involved management of Civic Center should the city decide to privatize the operations.
"I'm comfortable with Dick Petersen running the facility, but if the city ever decides to privatize, we'd like to have the first option," Ledohowski said. "We wish Dick could stay on forever; that says a lot about how this facility is run. But how the facility is run will have to be a part of the discussion. I'm not saying you should privatize, but if you do we at least want to be considered."
Canad Inns would like to have a response from the city within the year. Should negotiations be finalized, Ledohowski expected construction to start in February of 2008 or 2009 with approximately 10 months to completion. Ledohowski suggested that Canad Inns would invest $40 million to $50 million in the hotel and water park. The city's additions to the Civic Center are estimated to be between $12 million and $15 million.
Canad is currently constructing a similar facility in connection with the Grand Forks Alerus Center at a cost of $42 million. The indoor water park is slightly less than an acre in size and Ledohowski said the Bismarck water park might be slightly larger.
Laffen said the additions to the Civic Center should be made at the same time the hotel is constructed to provide for some savings. The plan proposes the hill on the west of the Civic Center be cut down for parking and the addition. A new entrance to the Civic Center would be built near the center of the building on the west side.
The Civic Center advisory committee gathered after the presentation and recommended the proposal be taken to the city commission at its June 13 meeting. Tabor said she felt the issue of exclusivity raised by Canad Inns wouldn't be a problem since the company was the only respondent to the city's search.
In relation to the city's addition to the Civic Center, Tabor said that the Civic Center's bond can't be refinanced until 2008, but said that would work with the proposed timeline. She added that the financing would have to be part of the 2007 budget discussions.
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Copyright (c) 2006, The Bismarck Tribune, N.D.
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