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City of Cedar Rapids, Iowa Gets Tough with New Owner of the Crowne Plaza Five Seasons Hotel
 - Pay Past Due City Bills and Get Started on Renovation


By Rick Smith, The Gazette, Cedar Rapids, IowaMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News 

Jan. 24, 2008 - C EDAR RAPIDS -- The Crowne Plaza Five Seasons Hotel has paid outstanding bills of about $67,000 to the city of Cedar Rapids and has shared with city officials its purchases and plans to complete required renovations of the downtown's all-important hotel. 

City Attorney Jim Flitz and two other city officials met Wednesday with regional representatives of the hotel who came to Cedar Rapids after the city sent the owner, operating as PortfolioCedar Rapids LLC of Marietta, Ga., a letter demanding payment of city bills by March 1. 

Flitz reported Wednesday afternoon that the company paid the city the outstanding sums, $61,806 plus $4,900 in unpaid utilities. 

He characterized the meeting as "positive and good." Hotel officials blamed the bill payment problems -- most of which consisted of parking fees collected from hotel guests and not paid to the city as required in the hotel's contract with the city -- on "internal bookkeeping" and "unfamiliarity with various accounts," Flitz said. 

"They apologized several times for it, and said they believe they have corrected the problem," he added. 

Flitz's letter last week to the hotel, in part, was a statement of disappointment on the city's part just seven months after Kronos Hotels LLC purchased the downtown Cedar Rapids hotel with promises to renovate the facility. 

"What is particularly disappointing," Flitz's letter said at one point, is that the hotel had not taken care of "routine" bills, let alone complied with its requirements to fix the hotel up. 

The hotel has agreed to make improvements in a contract with the city, which leases air rights to the hotel and has a parking agreement and other lease requirements. In addition, the new owners must complete a detailed list of improvements as required by InterContinental Hotels Group of Atlanta, Ga., in order to retain the Crowne Plaza flag on the hotel. 

Zahid Mubarak, regional director for the Cedar Rapids hotel owners, reported last week that the hotel had purchased carpeting, furniture and other items and was preparing to renovate the hotel rooms. 

On Wednesday, Flitz said the hotel representatives provided receipts to show that such purchases, in fact, had been made and that room renovations were slated to begin. 

"Every single room," Flitz said when asked what was required to keep the Crowne Plaza flag. He said the property improvement plan now in place is 100 pages long and spells out in detail what the owners are required to do. 

"Right down to the flat-panel TVs,'' he said. 

Flitz said the improvements are to be made within a year after the purchase, though the exact deadline is unclear. The city has assumed it is in June, he said. 

Scott Schoenike, executive director of the U.S. Cellular Center, Paramount Theatre and Cedar Rapids Ice Arena, and Patrick DePalma, chairman of the city's Five Seasons Facilities Commission, both attended Wednesday's meeting with the city's Flitz and the hotel representatives. 

"It does look like we're making progress," DePalma said. 

Schoenike said the hotel group responsible for the Crowne Plaza name had the "stronger arm" to make sure that the Cedar Rapids hotel owners renovate to the Crowne Plaza standard. 

Contact the writer: (319) 398-8312 or rick.smith@gazettecommunications.com 

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To see more of The Gazette, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.gazetteonline.com.

Copyright (c) 2008, The Gazette, Cedar Rapids, Iowa

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