Port Authority approves land sale to Cobblestone Hotels

Published 9:01 am Friday, December 28, 2018

The Austin Port Authority unanimously approved a purchase agreement from Cobblestone Hotels for a 1.6-acre parcel of land south of the old Hy-Vee building during a public hearing on Thursday afternoon. Cobblestone Hotels offered $250,000 for the land, which is located next to the Prairie Sky Apartments.

“We originally looked in the downtown area, but that had some challenges,” Cobblestone Hotels CEO Brian Wogernese told the Herald after the offer was announced. “We decided it was time to get in and get it done before somebody else signed up.”

Based in Neenah, Wisconsin, Cobblestone Hotels has 130 locations, four of which are in Minnesota. The company plans to build its fifth location, a 66-room hotel, on the 1.6-acre lot.

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In a letter to the Port Authority, City Administrator Craig Clark stated the location, which is a remnant parcel from the Oak Park Mall redevelopment as well as a remnant of the Slaby and Associates agreement, “meets Cobblestone’s general desired location along with I-90 visibility.” While Cobblestone Hotels initially hoped for two acres, Clark said the Wogernese felt the 1.6-acre parcel would be “satisfactory.” Clark also stated that he believed the Port Authority was receiving the fair market price for the land.

During the hearing, AmericInn Austin owner Larry Powell asked the commissioners to take into consideration of not putting an excess of rooms in town.

“If we can’t fill rooms, it won’t bring revenue to Austin,” he said, stating that some months are harder than others to rent rooms. “… You’ll put somebody out of business.”

Port Authority President Jerry McCarthy said they were deciding on whether to sell the land, not what goes on it, while Commissioner Jeff Austin stated he didn’t believe Cobblestone Hotels would build in Austin if they didn’t think they could get business.

Although the Port Authority has approved the sale, state law requires a 20-day objection period to allow anyone who opposes the sale to appeal the decision to the district court. This is followed by a 120-day due diligence period, after which Wogernese indicated construction would begin.