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The city of Winona will pay $9,500 to a national real estate advisory group to evaluate in the next few months whether 60 Main, the parking lot behind the Winona 7 theater, could still be an ideal place for a downtown hotel.

Port Authority members voted 5-1 Thursday to approve the feasibility study proposed by Newmark Knight Frank. Laurie Lucas voted against the proposal; Mike Hansen was absent.

“I think $9,500 is a small investment to help somebody make a good decision on that property,” said port authority member Dana Johnson.

City staff in 2016 sent out a request for proposals for the property and ultimately made an agreement with Minneapolis-based Sherman Associates to construct a hotel, apartments and commercial space.

Sherman lost interest in the project earlier this year after a private hotel group concluded it would no longer be a sound idea. City officials shared at the port authority’s March 16 meeting that lodging tax data from 2018 saw a 2% decline and hypothesized that Winona hotels might have trouble staying booked in the winter months, leaving the group wondering if an independent study might be the right direction to pursue next.

The proposal from Newmark details the study, for which the city will pay half of the price up front, that will be delivered to staff in a draft form in roughly 45 days. Between now and then, the group will make site visits, analyze the performance of nearby hotels, identify leisure and commercial attractions in the area and interview potential users of the hotel to evaluate demand.

Some members initially balked at paying for a study as a city, when a developer seeking to build on the lot would likely conduct their own study anyway.

But city manager Steve Sarvi said it could be a helpful step before staff sends out another request for proposals for the site. He said they were “shooting in the dark” with the 2016 RFP for mixed-use space plus the hotel.

“What this will do is it will give us a better indication if a hotel would meet the standard here,” Sarvi said.

The group’s prior studies run as close as a luxury development in Rochester and as far as a five-star waterpark and resort in the kingdom of Bahrain.

Much of their work revolves around larger cities and not waterfront properties, however, which Lucas pointed out. But other members argued it would still provide the city with a comprehensive plan to move forward on the property, which has been a parking lot for years.

“By having something like this in hand, it could help developers make a decision,” said Port Authority member and city councilor Al Thurley. “The report is gonna come up with something. That something might be ‘no (hotel),’ but this gives us a few options.”

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Reporter

Madeline Heim covers K-12 & higher education in Winona. A 2018 graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, she previously interned at the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism and the suburban community arm of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

(3) comments

gopackers1

Hope they come up with better advice than the parking garage study!

Hive

Harvey +1. Johnson, Thuley and whomever thinks this is good idea, forget we still cannot deal with Madison etc, and Levee Park boondoggle cost us far to much for silliness. Whole notion is as full of "brown" as was Sorenson's "convention center" Winona dreams beg, does small. IMO, natch! Madness!

Paul Harvey

A private investor decided to forego a hotel project citing projections that it wouldnt be a wise investment. The City decides to conduct an independent study to see if those projections are accurate so they can hopefully market the property to another investor who will conduct their own feasibility study. In the meantime the City leaders amend the comprehensive plan to allow manufacturing expansion roughly 400' away. Can you define insanity?

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