GREEN BAY - A city leader gives his endorsement for an ambitious downtown Green Bay development plan.
The city council president says a Michigan developer's last-minute plan for the Clarion hotel is too good to pass up. Just a month ago, the city seemed ready to sell the old hotel, for a loss, to the current management company.
The hotel is the centerpiece of the plan for the property on the north side of Main Street between the Fox River and the KI Convention Center.
City Council President Tom DeWane says the mayor and city staff are holding Edgewater Resources' plan up. The St. Joseph, Mich. developer has preliminary plans to invest at least $30 million, razing the current hotel and building a 16-story hotel and condominium, complete with improved facilities.
For some residents who live down the street form the Clarion, the possible development is a good idea.
"I think any change is good," said John Castillo.
The 37-year-old Green Bay native, who just moved into the downtown district, says the possible project could help the city tout what it has going for it, other than the Packers.
"Green Bay, Wis., (has) something else," said Castillo. "There's something else there; there's something else to see."
Others urge caution.
"We have issues in Appleton where we put up gorgeous things," explained Betty Pockat of Appleton as she sat on the CityDeck Monday afternoon. "And it took a long time for those things to actually get started and people to move in."
The city still owns the hotel.
Last month, the Redevelopment Authority approved its recommendation to sell it to the hotel's current managers – American Hospitality Management – for $2.7 million with the understanding that group would invest at least $4 million into rehab.
But a week later the city council put the sale on hold, concerned the city would be selling for $150,000 less than what it paid – and council members wanted to bring in other developers.
Two days later, Edgewater Resources announced it wanted the Clarion.
FOX 11's calls to Edgewater and American Hospitality went unreturned.
DeWane was critical of the city's decision not to seek request for proposals.
"It's not the norm, but we didn't do any (Requests for Proposals) with this," said DeWane. "The mayor decided to make a deal with this company from the get go."
DeWane says Edgewater Resources contacted him after the city said it wasn't looking at any other developers.
"I received a phone call and from there, I started bringing it forward," said DeWane. "But, for some reason or another they seem to just want to stick with American Hospitality and I don't think that's the way to go."
"We do due diligence on every project," said Green Bay Mayor Jim Schmitt.
Schmitt downplayed the preference of one developer over another. Schmitt says the plan must be right.
"We've got pretty pictures, and those are always a good starting point with the public," said Schmitt in a phone interview with FOX 11. "But at the end of the day, it's got to work financially, equally with the rest of what we're doing in the downtown."
So when will we know more?
Edgewater said last week it plans to submit a proposal and bid to purchase and redevelop the property. But it hasn't done so yet and I couldn't get a clear answer as to when that may happen.
For background, Edgewater has been a part of the design team for other waterfront/harbor projects.
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