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City of Cedar Rapids, Owners of the Former Crowne Plaza Five Seasons Hotel,
Can't Spiff Up the Interior Until the Exterior Gets a Face-Lift;
Council Seeking Bids for the $3.7 million Project

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

Aug. 10, 2011--CEDAR RAPIDS -- The city can't spiff up the downtown hotel it now owns without a major exterior face-lift as part of the $21-million hotel renovation project, the City Council decided on Tuesday.

The council agreed to seek bids this month on the face-lift, which will include all new windows, a roof replacement, new heating and air conditioning equipment and a cleanup of the exterior ends of the hotel.

The cost estimate is $3.7 million.

Mayor Ron Corbett said the "curb appeal" of the hotel is as important to the city if it is to one day sell the hotel as it is to a homeowner trying to sell a house.

Corbett said the hotel, which the city purchased earlier this year from its creditors for $3.2 million, had been ignored by previous owners and left to decline in value. The city's interest hasn't changed: The city bought it, will fix it up and hopes to sell it, he said.

City officials noted that the city's hope is that revenue from the hotel will pay off the debt that the city is taking on to fix up the hotel as it is the city's hope that revenue generated by the city's new convention center will help pay off debt being taken on to build that facility.

City Council member Tom Podzimek said that many of the comments he hears about the $100-million project to renovate the hotel and U.S. Cellular Center arena attached to it and to build a convention center next door relates to where the city is finding money to pay for the effort.

Podzimek suggested that the city ought to tell the public it intends to pay off the debt with hotel and facility revenue and with revenue from the city's hotel-motel tax with none of the money coming from property taxes. The city hasn't been able to say that, though council member Kris Gulick said it's still not known what the total costs of the project will be or what the revenue picture might look like for the hotel and the facilities.

Council member Chuck Wieneke said the city ought to use the hotel-motel tax revenue, which brings in $2.5 million a year, to help pay the hotel and convention center debt and require current recipients of the tax revenue to come to the City Council and make a case for funding from property taxes.

Doug Neumann, president/CEO of the Cedar Rapids Downtown District, told the council that 17 of 19 downtowns that have invested in hotel-convention center projects over the last decade or so have required public-sector involvement. The only two places that have not have been New York City and Las Vegas, he said.

The city's arena and its hotel, which had been known as the Crowne Plaza Five Seasons Hotel and is slated to take on the Doubletree by Hilton brand, are now closed for renovation and are slated to open in the fall of 2012. The new convention center should be ready in early 2013.


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Copyright (c) 2011, The Gazette, Cedar Rapids, Iowa

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