High-rise hotel still progressing


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While in its history Iowa City has been no stranger to a number of firsts, a once-delayed downtown Iowa City hotel development that has now grown new legs will soon mark another Iowa first.

North Liberty-based Kinseth Hospitality Companies first announced plans for a new 12-story, 180-room Holiday Inn & Suites/StayBridge Suites dual-hotel tower on land near the Burlington and Clinton Street intersection at 320 S. Clinton St., next to the Clinton Post Apartments in a Sept. 24, 2012, press release.

A first-floor will contain a lobby, and floors two through six will have the Holiday Inn & Suites, with the remaining floors holding StayBridge Suites, a 300-person rooftop executive conference center and restaurant, lounge, indoor pool and spa as well as an expanded fitness center.

Holiday Inn will cater to short-term travelers, while StayBridge Suites will accommodate individuals who want an extended hotel accommodation.                             

For nearly a year, as both the public and private sectors — including the University of Iowa — gobbled up prime parcels in and around downtown, the decrepit parking lot sat still.

But, pending the expected completion of financial analysis work among the city of Iowa City, Kinseth, and the National Development Council over the next 30 to 60 days, that lot could be only a fabric of memory, said Jeff Davidson, the city director of planning and development.

The concluding process should reveal the amount of city-funded dollars, like tax-increment financing, needed, if at all, he said.

Davidson said despite the delay, the project is helping the city to achieve an expansion of hotel rooms in the city center.

The tower originally had a projected opening in the second quarter of 2014, but Ben Kinseth, the director of operations, said the company is now looking to break ground sometime in early 2014, with an expected 18-month construction period.

Final costs and design, including final square footage of the project, are still being negotiated, Kinseth said, but added that the Holiday Inn & Suites’s interior will mirror a newly built one in West Des Moines.

Once open, the complex will employ more than 100 full-time team members and support staff.
Kinseth said the company is excited to be a part of the “new wave of development in Iowa City,” noting that locating across the street from the new 90,000-square-foot new music complex only further solidifies the investment.

“Downtown has some great hotels, but if you get down to it, there hasn’t been a new significant branded hotel addition to downtown in a long time,” he said.

Following the opening of the downtown property, Kinseth said, the Holiday Inn in north Coralville will lose its Holiday Inn flag with parent company, InterContinental Hotels Group, transitioning into a separate hotel chain.

Holiday Inn Express Coralville general manager Neal Roth, whose hotel is operated by Kinseth, said that transition would likely be into a Hilton-branded operation for the 100 staff personnel.

“I’m sure some staff will transfer, but no one will lose jobs; we’ll actually create around 100 new jobs,” he said.

Karen Howard, an associate city planner, said overall, she believed the project to be a positive one.

“I think in most regards, it’s probably a good thing,” she said. “[Guests] often times can’t find rooms, and we want to keep them filled all year-round.”

But for one downtown hotel operator, the future could show a number of unknowns.

“With the recent openings of the three new hotels in the market and an increase of 300 rooms, the future is of concern as we are still evaluating how local demand will affect supply,” said Melanie Baker, the general manager at Sheraton Iowa City & Hotel Vetro.                                  

With more than 2,700 associates managing more than $110,000,000 in annual revenue, Kinseth operates more than 80 hotels and nine branded restaurants in 13 states.

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