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No downtown Hilton for Mason City in 2014; city now pursuing bigger development, including performing arts center


This news story was published on March 16, 2014.
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West row of parking at the public lot on October 25th, 2013 at 12:30 PM. Could a 96 room hotel, three levels of parking, a convention center, retail shops, and a performing arts center fit here?

West row of parking at the public lot on October 25th, 2013 at 12:30 PM.
Could a 96 room hotel, three levels of parking, a convention center, retail shops, and a performing arts center fit here?

MASON CITY – There will be no Hilton hotel built in downtown Mason City this year.

City officials, through their local media outlets, reported last year that a new development that included retail shops and a 96-room Hilton hotel was in negotiations and could break ground this April.

However, the Des Moines Register reported today that city officials in Mason City are now pursuing a larger development that would include a hotel, a conference center, retail shops, and a performing arts center.

The larger development – which could not even get off the ground until well into 2015 – would be made possible if the city is awarded a chunk of a $100 million state re-investment fund that was created by the Iowa legislature last year.  Nine other cities submitted plans to the Iowa Department of Economic Development (IDED), seeking funds as well.

From the Des Moines Register, reported March 15, 2014:

City Administrator Brent Trout

City Administrator Brent Trout

Brent Trout, the city administrator for Mason City, said a developer has been interested in building a downtown hotel for a while. With a proposed reinvestment district, however, the city is able to include a few additions to the original proposal, such as a new parking ramp and performing arts center. Trout said the city is requesting about $4.5 million in redirected taxes. The proposal for the district, located in the heart of downtown Mason City, includes:

• A $14 million conference center and hotel west of City Hall.

• A $4.5 million parking lot adjacent to the hotel.

• The $4.5 million performing arts facility.

• A $3 million retail and mixed use building.

A city council member confirmed this development Saturday, saying that the council recently approved a plan that city staff brought to the council to pursue state funds totaling $4.5 million, that would be added to local dollars to make the project happen.

In June, provisional proposals from cities could be accepted by IDED.  By March of 2015, all  Iowa Reinvestment Districts will be created, the agency’s web site says, allowing for development to commence.

Last October, just weeks before mayoral and council elections, Mason City elected officials bragged that due to “cohesive, harmonious leadership” in City Hall, a Hilton Hotel development would soon be coming to downtown Mason City, that it was more or less a done deal, and construction might start this spring.

The Des Moines Register story and subsequent city council vote to pursue this new project makes it clear that no Hilton hotel will be developed at least until 2015, and the scope of the project is unclear.  The Register story leaves the project as it was formerly announced to the public in limbo.

 BACKGROUND ON DOWNTOWN HOTEL PROJECT
A public parking lot in downtown Mason City, at second street and North Washington Avenue.

A public parking lot in downtown Mason City, at second street and North Washington Avenue.

A San Diego developer – Phillip Chodur – was originally pursuing this downtown hotel /retail project, and local media strongly tied to elected officials widely reported that the deal was progressing rapidly. The community was abuzz about the project. Concerns from already-established hotels were brushed aside or ignored, as were concerns from citizens that public land earmarked for the project was never opened for bidding.

The project was made to look “official”, as Phillip Chodur’s brother – Mason City realtor Joe Chodur – and local attorney Jacquelyn Arthur showed up at a council meeting to back the deal as the council approved an exclusive option for Chodur’s company to go ahead and pursue a Hilton Hotel and use land at a downtown public parking lot. Phillip Chodur never purchased a plane ticket to come to Mason City to attend the council meeting, where the entire deal hinged on council approval.

However, only one artist rendering (created by Chodur’s company, G8 Development) of the hotel/retail development was ever released. Many questioned the viability of the project, noting that there were dozens of empty retail spots littering the city already, and scarce parking downtown would be a made much worse. Officials countered that the parking would be “underground.” Then, last month, the Globe Gazette – the media mouthpiece for local officials – reported that there would be “lower-level, ground-level and upper-level parking for 200 vehicles”. The artist rendering shows none of that, but the Globe reported that the project is “still in the works”.

The spot for the development, a public parking lot directly west of City Hall, shows absolutely no signs of being ready for any type of construction. The community was led to believe last fall by KIMT and the Globe Gazette that construction could start this April.

Questions also linger about G8 Development.  It was reported by utsandiego.com in February of 2013 that a Vista, California “downtown redevelopment effort” G8 was spearheading called Vista Village was delayed – over parking concerns. (SOURCE)

Chodur’s G8 Development company did not answer multiple phone calls to its office seeking information on the project. An extensive web search showed no web site existed for G8 Development until a domain name was reserved in November of 2013, G8DEVELOPMENT.COM. Inspection of the web site source code shows that the site wasn’t uploaded to the internet until January of this year. On the website, a page for Vista Village … is blank.  There is no page on the website for the Mason City development that it has been pursuing for almost a year.

PRELIMINARY QUESTIONS:

• When did the city scrap the original proposal from G8 Development and decide to pursue this new plan? Where does G8 stand? (Where are they on their negotiations with Hilton, by the way? No answer from them in nearly 6 months?)

• Why were the people of Mason City left out of deciding whether they wanted this development? Would they want to pursue a different project?

• How would a performing arts center fit into our community? Don’t we have venues for that? (NIACC Auditorium)

• If awarded state dollars, how much would the City need to match? Remember Vision Iowa?  Would further tax hikes (10% this year) be needed to cover costs of this project?

• What other properties, if any, would need to be acquired in order for this project to commence?

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10 Responses to No downtown Hilton for Mason City in 2014; city now pursuing bigger development, including performing arts center

  1. Dick Knight Reply Report comment

    March 16, 2014 at 5:07 pm

    terrible idea! having a big name hotel for what? not like we have huge amounts of sports or music all over like bigger metros do. why dont they focus on getting our community jobs. your always hearing we need to keep our graduates here, how about give them a job worth sticking around for instead of living with the parents working at mcdonalds!

  2. USMCSSG Reply Report comment

    March 16, 2014 at 3:27 pm

    Lets try to get another Casino and have Chief youfu*kinme run it, (aka Eric Boozemeyer). I’m serious so don’t laugh.

  3. Matt Marquardt Reply Report comment

    March 16, 2014 at 2:23 am

    I called this last fall, it was a scam and a lie from the start, concocted by Bookmeyer and his henchmen and spewed all over the grimy pages of the Globe Gazette by John Skipper. They will lie, cheat and steal from the common people to protect themselves and their gravy train. Only when the masses decide they have been second-class citizens for long enough will meaningful change come to Mason City. Until then, this town will circle the drain.

  4. LVS Reply Report comment

    March 15, 2014 at 6:37 pm

    The downtown Hilton was nothing but a scam to get the mayor and his henchnmen re-elected. It was B.S. all the way. This new proposal is even worse. They want top pour more into the dead downtown and kill what is let of the mall and the few other retail stores in the downtown, not to mention the existing hotels already in town. What in the hell is the matter with those people????

    • William Jefferson Clapton Reply Report comment

      March 16, 2014 at 10:24 am

      “…state funds totaling $4.5 million…”

      They want their fingers in that piece of pie.

  5. Austin Reply Report comment

    March 15, 2014 at 6:25 pm

    And what of Music Man Square, with its performing arts center? It’s already struggling with the HPI development, and this should kill it right off. Can’t we support what we already have?

  6. Rebecca Pate Reply Report comment

    March 15, 2014 at 4:33 pm

    I hate the idea of big hotel in middle of town, with added parking & congestion issues. Take it to South Mason City where there is huge area where Sears is. Sadly Sears will probably not be with us in near future. That area could use some attention.

  7. dot Reply Report comment

    March 15, 2014 at 4:16 pm

    Why can’t this be built on 2nd SW, west of the mall in that riverfront area? That seems like a better place…

    • William Jefferson Clapton Reply Report comment

      March 15, 2014 at 4:25 pm

      You mean down where it could flood? Hockey arena was just as poorly thought out as this.

      No new hotels – HPI or bust!