Business owners excited about downtown hotel project | Business

As the city prepares to renovate the former Red Lion Hotel downtown, many area business owners expect to see an increase in traffic.

The city announced a $27 million economic development project earlier this week that includes converting the building into a Marriott-branded hotel, making it suitable for housing foreigners coming to St. Joseph.

“I don’t see any negative consequences of turning an eyesore into a usable, tax-generating business that will bring outside revenue to downtown,” said Mike Olinger, owner of Angry Swede Brewing Company, located at 513 Francis St.

It has been several years since the building has been functional downtown. HDDA, the company that owns the hotel, tried to fast-track the project. In November, he offered a $10,000 incentive package to reduce the cost of renovations, which St. Joseph City Council unanimously approved.

The downtown community has seen businesses come and go during the Red Lion’s vacancy years, but those who have stuck around know the impact a functioning hotel would have on surrounding establishments.

Casey Wallerstedt Jones, owner and designer of Mod Podge Boutique, estimates that about 50% of his customers come from out of town. She said the reopening of a downtown hotel would supplement that foot traffic.

“I think this whole project is just very necessary for downtown and for the whole economy of St. Joe. We need more people to stay downtown and explore everything we have to offer,” Jones said.

Notably, the Civic Arena is a few hundred meters from the vacant hotel. With the hotel revitalized in the future, arena events like the NCAA Women’s Division II Tournament could help keep visitors downtown.

“This will bring in external revenue and attract other businesses to downtown. Obviously, as a business owner within walking distance, I also see positive opportunities for increased traffic,” Olinger said.

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