|By Ben Goessling, Star Tribune,
MinneapolisMcClatchy-Tribune Business News
July 26, 2006 - Considering his range of other business interests -- a home developing company, a farm, a resort and a racing team -- perhaps it shouldn't be surprising that Joe Miller decided to enter the hotel industry on little more than a hunch.
Miller can't pin down the date ("A couple years ago or whenever it was," he said), but he was driving by the old Super 8 Motel off County Road 70 in Lakeville with business partner Kevin Thein when something told him to look into buying it.
"I had this feeling in me that the timing was right. It's like a little bird talking to you," Miller said. "Kevin said he knew the guy who owned it. He called the guy and they wanted to sell it."
Miller's gut feeling turned into a $10 million-plus conversion of the Super 8 into a Holiday Inn Hotel and Suites scheduled to open the last week of September.
The hotel features a New Orleans-themed Holidome waterpark, as well as a 6,000 square-foot meeting center and a restaurant, making it Lakeville's first full-service hotel.
"We pretty much took everything down to the studs. We put a two-story addition on the front," general manager Larry LaMont said. "It's like it's brand new."
And, city officials hope, it could be an integral piece of a new gateway to the metro area.
The County Road 70/Interstate Hwy. 35 interchange is scheduled for improvements in 2008 and 2009, and the area represents the last major undeveloped commercial property in Lakeville.
With the Holiday Inn to the west of the freeway and the Lakeville 21 Theater to the east, community developer Dave Olson sees two bookends already in place around the surging property, which is commercially zoned between the hotel and the theater, as well as 10 blocks to the north and three blocks to the south.
"We get calls on a pretty regular basis from parties that are looking to invest (in the area)," he said. "Once the interchange improvements go in, it's probably going to be the last and one of the largest commercial areas of the city."
Jeanne Britton, the director of tourism and marketing at the Lakeville Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the hotel fills a gaping hole in the city's business landscape.
With the rapid development of the Airlake Business Park and a host of sports tournaments coming to town, corporate groups looking for meeting space or teams searching for a block of rooms often had to head north to Burnsville or Eagan, she said.
"We were losing the meeting crowd. The Super 8 had no food service for four years," Britton said. "We needed a hotel that fits the community."
For Miller's investment group, which includes Thein and Burnsville's Ron Dahlen, the project became a much better fit than its out-of-left-field beginning would suggest.
They landed LaMont, who had managed Holiday Inns in Burnsville and Minneapolis, as general manager.
Dahlen's wife Jamie, who was the sales and marketing director at the Burnsville Holiday Inn, will take the same job in Lakeville.
"The people we worked with were almost like family," Miller said.
Though the hotel will not open this summer, as originally projected, Miller's group sees nothing but positives from here.
LaMont said the hotel has 132 rooms, including 36 suites and 40 poolside units, and he anticipates it being a hit with families vacationing from Iowa and South Dakota.
And Miller, whose businesses bring dozens of people to Lakeville for meetings every year, now has somewhere to send them.
Maybe his gut feeling wasn't so crazy after all.
"With all the businesspeople we deal with, I would assume that would help," he said. "Now, if they're coming to town, they're going to choose it because of quality and service."
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Copyright (c) 2006, Star Tribune, Minneapolis
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