With little interest from developers, plan B may emerge on $14m Destination Park hotel project
If builders won't come to Storm Lake to create the grand Cobblestone Lodge the community envisions, then Storm Lake may well become a builder.
"I think it is a viable option for the city to build the lodge itself, if we can get at least $5 million of the funding from the state Vision Iowa program," said City Administrator John Call.
A few weeks ago, the city sent out feelers to 12-15 large hotel builders and operators to try to stir up some interest in privately developing the nearly 100-room western-style centerpiece to the Destination Park plan. None of those contacts have bitten on the project, Call said this week.
In a few cases, the city has have phone calls asking questions about the lodge project, but the callers would not reveal who they were working for, Call said.
Such a development is new territory for the city staff, and Call said he isn't sure whether to be surprised by the lack of developer response or not. The city has been stipulating that while the hotel would be privately built and operated, the land under it would be retained as public property owned by the city. Call is not certain if that requirement may be responsible for the lack of enthusiasm from outside companies.
If the city builds the lodge itself, the hotel would be entirely publically owned. That places more risk on the city, as well as the potential for more of the financial benefit.
"It would be a mixed bag for us to do it that way. I feel strongly that we would have to have Vision Iowa as a partner to share some of that risk with the city," Call said. "Would it work - yes, I think it would. But we would be looking at some form of loan or bond to pay for the remainder of the construction even if the Vision Iowa money would come through."
If no hotel builder or operator is willing to take on the job, a city project appears to be the only workable option. "It seems to me that there are only two ways of doing it," he said. "We are still exploring both options."
Call said that the lack of immediate interest by hotel developers has done nothing to dampen the enthusiasm of the promoters of the Destination Park and its lodge plan. It is still early in the process, and if one avenue does not work out, the community will try another, he said. The hotel cost was estimated at $14 million.