April 12–Before Greeley Mayor Tom Norton left for the downtown hotel and conference center groundbreaking Tuesday afternoon, he went through his personal city document archives.
He found a study the Downtown Development Authority commissioned in 1998. That was the first official inkling anyone had about a plan to build a hotel and convention center downtown.
"That's a long time in the development process," he said before a crowd of about 150 who gathered at the Lincoln Park Annex, the site of he $31 million project.
Leaders — public and private — have worked to bring the facility to Greeley for almost 20 years, and now it will be done in a little more than one. It will be a Double Tree by Hilton Hotels, and it will feature 147 rooms. The conference center will span 14,000 square feet, including a 12,000-square-foot ballroom.
As soon as the Greeley City Council signed off on its finance plan, the development agreement and land lease this past week, jersey blocks went up around 919 7th St. Then fences went in. Then came construction crews.
Tuesday was the official groundbreaking ceremony. All the key players — the investment group, the construction company, city officials and the downtown development authority — celebrated the long-awaited kick off under a big white tent.
Speakers revisited the timeline in which the idea unfurled and talked about the work ahead. Some talked about an even further future.
Bob Tointon is, essentially, a downtown Greeley landmark. He founded the Downtown Development Authority, which invests in and advocates for business in the area. He's been in Greeley's planning game so long that he remembers the Lincoln Annex's construction. The building is almost 60 years old, and it will get knocked down to make way for this project.
"We're giving a total recycle at this point," he said.
Although he is proud of the accomplishment, he told the crowd this hotel isn't the end.
"I don't want any of you to think of this as a concluding event," he said. "It's all part of a process… Success is always under construction."
This project's construction is slated to wrap up next summer, with a July 2017 open date.
When it opens, Providence Hospitality Partners of Denver will manage the hotel.
The company's president and CEO, David Storm, is a University of Northern Colorado alumnus. He said he has strong ties and good memories of Greeley. He met his wife here while going to school.
"Every great city deserves a great hotel," he said.
The company manages high-end and full-service hotels nationwide. Storm said they have two goals: one aimed at residents and one aimed at customers outside Greeley.
"Our aspiration is we'd become the living room for Greeley," he said.
It would be a gathering place for families, friends and coworkers to celebrate. It also would become a hot spot for statewide and regional conferences.
Greeley officials authorized an $8 million loan for the undertaking of the $31 million facility. A group of 11 investors will pitch in $13 million, and the rest will be borrowed.
The Downtown Development Authority pitched in $1.5 million to help raze the Lincoln Annex and build a parking lot.
The city of Greeley will hold onto the land, leasing it to the developers for 60 years with an option for extensions. The hotel will pay 0.8 percent of its gross income for rent starting six years after completion. Officials estimate the city will earn $80,000 in the first year of the lease and by year 30, the city will be bringing in $163,000 per year.