- Associated Press - Sunday, May 14, 2017

WATERLOO, Iowa (AP) - Tractor parts were being manufactured in a downtown Waterloo building for decades. Now in that same building, developers are manufacturing a hotel.

A Courtyard by Marriott hotel is taking shape in the former John Deere Waterloo manufacturing building, now the “Tech II” building of the Cedar Valley Tech-Works. The building will include several restaurants and a conference center for John Deere’s Waterloo operations. A project of Quad-Cities area developer Rodney Blackwell, it is projected to open in early October. Projected costs are about $43 million, and more than $21 million has been expended to date, the Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier (https://bit.ly/2pACRWm ) reported.

The 180,000-square-foot building will have 166 rooms, including several presidential suites, complete with board rooms, deep standard rooms, multi-bedroom suites and swimming pool on one of the upper floors. The hotel also will have a 4,500-square-foot banquet hall capable of accommodating 250 people or more.

The building’s historic features - its pillars and interior brick work - will be preserved, accentuated and worked into the hotel decor, said Kim DeGood, who will be manager of the facility.

“We want to, of course, preserve everything we can, because it gives the property character,” DeGood said. “This is a destination hotel. There’s no other Courtyard like it. When you go to a Courtyard, you know what you’re getting. It’ll still have the Marriott-mandated things.” But it will have its own unique character.

The large factory windows will be retained to brighten rooms and the entire facility. In fact some floors are being elevated above the original manufacturing floor surface to take advantage of the window light and views of the surrounding area.

“The projected opening date is the second week of October,” DeGood said. “Again, that is just projected and that can change depending on construction, inspections” and other factors.

Most of the construction will be completed by July, DeGood said, but it will take additional time to furnish and prepare every room for occupancy.

“After the construction gets done, the operation team comes in and we literally put all effort in everything, from every towel to every amenity. We scrub the hotel from top to bottom, and that’s quite a process,” she said.

The management company Hospitality Specialists has a track record with such buildings, performing a similar project in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where it’s headquartered.

The hotel will employ about 50 to 60 people, with more employees in the restaurant space.

In addition to a bistro restaurant operated by the hotel, the building will have an Irish pub named the Iron Horse, playing off a Deere tractor theme. It’s a concept developed by Blackwell.

The building also will have The Black Oak Grill restaurant, independently managed by Consolidated Restaurant Operations Inc., or CRO Inc., based in Dallas. The company has other Black Oak Grill establishments in Branson Missouri and Lincoln, Nebraska.

Rodney took everything he knows with commercial buildings and what he knows as a traveler,” in designing the hotel, DeGood said. For example, each floor will have its own heating and air conditioning units for greater climate control, as well as hot water heaters - important for booking large groups. Rooms also will have great insulation to deaden sound.

“In all the years I’ve done hospitality and opened hotels, I was truly in awe about what he’s done with this building,” DeGood said. “He’s put in a lot of thought. It’s truly, truly going to be a one-of-a-kind hotel. He’s very good at what he does.

“I’m assuming we will have a lot of John Deere business because they will have their training center here,” DeGood said, but it will be a community hotel. “We do anticipate a lot of weddings, lot of groups. He’s tailored hotel rooms for groups, weddings.”

The project is a venture of Blackwell’s Financial District Properties, or FDP DC II, Inc.

Officials at TechWorks and the Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber, which just moved its offices to the “Tech I” building on campus, are enthused by the hotel project and note it’s already turning heads.

“The progress on the hotel has been exciting to watch and has stimulated a lot of inquiries for that project along with interest in the Tech I building and TechWorks Campus,” TechWorks campus president Cary Darrah said. “That momentum is precisely what we were hoping for as the CourtyardMarriott, Grand Crossing apartments, SingleSpeed Brewery and Hawkeye (Community College)’s Urban Campus take shape.”


Information from: Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier, https://www.wcfcourier.com

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