|By Anne Williams, The Bemidji Pioneer,
Minn.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Dec. 09, 2011--A Country Inn & Suites hotel and an attached restaurant will be built next to the Sanford Center's Neilson Convention and Conference Center on the south shore of Lake Bemidji.
Snyder & Associates, a development company headquartered in the Twin Cities, accepted a proposal this week by the Bemidji Economic Development Authority to construct the hotel and restaurant.
Construction of the 120-room hotel and unnamed franchise restaurant is expected to begin next spring and completed within eight to 10 months, said R.S. Tripp Snyder, founder of Snyder & Associates.
Snyder said he plans to come to Bemidji next week with his partners to finalize the details of the arrangement and potentially sign a purchase agreement.
Revenue from the sale will give the city between $800,000 to $1.1 million, said City Manager John Chattin. The city is requesting Snyder & Associates pay $100,000 in nonrefundable earnest money, which Snyder said "certainly seems reasonable."
Building the hotel and restaurant project is expected cost between $10 million to $12 million, Synder said.
"It's an exciting day for Bemidji," said Dave Hengel, director of community stewardship development for the Headwaters Regional Development Commission. "Tripp is a good developer. He has proven he can make projects like this succeed."
Hengel said he invited Snyder to visit Bemidji last fall, where he introduced him to members of the City Council and BEDA. Snyder then toured the south shore property and attended a Bemidji State University hockey game.
Bemidji is a perfect fit for a Country Inn & Suites, Snyder said, because 75 to 80 percent of people who stay in one are leisure travelers.
"Bemidji is very much a leisure market," he said. "Country Inn & Suites is extremely strong in Minnesota in terms of the amount of business their reservation system has. That's one of the prime reasons we are very interested in this property."
The agreement marks the second hotel planned for the south shore area. Edgewater Group is currently finalizing plans for a DoubleTree Hotel to be attached to the east side of the Green Mill.
Snyder said while he would like to see more development on the south shore occur in the near future, he said he is not bothered by the vacant lots.
"Once our project is announced and construction gets started, I think it will spur other projects to generate, which will help the rest of the south shore area," Snyder said. "It doesn't bother me in the least we are the first ones. It might be a plus."
The construction of the hotel and restaurant will be managed by Amcon Construction, a general contractor and construction management firm. The hotel will be managed by Bay Ridge Management, a hotel management company. Both companies are headquartered in the Twin Cities.
"I think it's absolutely wonderful," Mayor Dave Larson said of the arrangement. "I'm glad this has materialized. We needed this in order to get our convention business going. This hotel convention world is going to see we're capable and serious about this."
Hengel said he has heard more interest from developers in south shore property in the last three months, which he attributed to an improving economy.
"We've been marketing it hard and letting people know about the sites, but they really have to come to Bemidji and experience it for themselves," Hengel said.
Having Snyder sign a purchase agreement signals a promising hope for future development, he added.
"It's a great signal to the rest of the development community we are a good place to look," Hengel said, who revealed other development offers could be announced in the coming months.
The BEDA met in a closed session Monday evening to consider two potential offers for a hotel. Two developers had proposed hotels that would be attached to the Sanford Center.
One proposal was for a Cambria Suites and one was for a Country Inn & Suites.
The developer of Cambria Suites countered with less money and less earnest money than the city requested, Chattin said, so the city made the same offer to Snyder & Associates, who agreed to the terms.
The proposals replace a previously planned Holiday Inn Resort, which will not be constructed.
"I think this is the most encouraged we've been with any developer," Chattin said. "We have to get a purchase agreement together and get earnest money put down as soon as possible, and I see that happening with the next couple weeks."
Snyder said he is planning to attach a franchise restaurant to the hotel, but would not reveal the names of the restaurants he is considering.
"We don't know if Bemidji meets the franchising criteria as far as the level of occupancy," he said. "We're looking at two or three different brands."
The restaurant will likely have a sports bar theme and will offer high-definition television screens.
"It definitely will not be a gourmet restaurant," Snyder said.
Snyder said as soon as the frost is out of the ground he hopes to break ground for construction.
The hotel, which he said will be larger than a typical Country Inn & Suites, will feature 120 rooms and will be four stories tall. Eighty rooms will be "normal" hotel rooms and 40 will be suites. Half of the suites will be studio suites and half will be one-room suites.
The hotel will feature upper-to-mid-scale amenities, Snyder said, and a business center with three or four stations in it. It will also feature a convenience counter where guests may purchase food items to heat in a microwave or store in a refrigerator.
Synder said Amcon Construction has a track record of hiring local subcontractors to do the construction work.
The hotel's exterior is proposed to feature a combination of stone and stucco. Ultimately any design Snyder proposes will need to be approved by the city's design review committee, which has the final say over aesthetics, Chattin said.
(c)2011 The Bemidji Pioneer (Bemidji, Minn.)
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