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Developer working on downtown hotel in Mason City now suing California town after deal there fell apart

Parking lot at 2nd Street NE and Federal Ave.
Parking lot at 2nd Street NE and Federal Ave.

MASON CITY – By all accounts, Mason City’s downtown Marriott Hotel hinges on California developer Philip Chodur. It’s all up to him and his company G8 Development to sell Marriott Hotels on the idea that building a hotel in Mason City’s downtown is a project they need to pursue.

Without that hotel, Mason City’s $36 million “renaissance” project could be dead on arrival. For, with no hotel, there is no parking ramp; they are joined at the hip. That’s two-fifths of the project gone. Would Mason City still get an arena without the hotel? A music pavilion? A mixed-use building at the corner of 2nd Street NE and Federal Avenue? Quite possibly not; $7.1 million in state funding also hinges on the go-ahead from Marriott that it will build the hotel.

Philip Chodur
Philip Chodur

Mason City officials have been scurrying about trying to make Chodur’s sale job to Marriott smoother. This is why the city council moved ahead with approval of $18.75 million in general obligation bonds. This is also why the city is already shelling out dollars for concepts for the 6-7 story parking ramp that would sit north of the hotel. The ramp would look like it is part of the hotel; similarly designed, aesthetically correct. Chodur can take the city council’s approval of the design of the ramp and show it to Marriott, thus making them more sure of the validity and the stability of local officials in backing the project. City hall is rushing to do this before the state makes its decision this spring on the $7.1 million in state economic development dollars its seeking.

As all this unfolds, as the Globe tells you this deal is “on ice” and programs the sheep to believe this is a done deal (so no one questions anything), Chodur is reportedly snapping up properties here and there in the downtown. He has more and more at stake in this as the weeks and months go ahead. Remember, his name was drug out over 2 years ago (October of 2013), when Eric, the city council, the Globe Gazette and KIMT lied to to public about a hotel that would “break ground” in April of 2014 in the same downtown parking lot west of city hall. We know that never happened.

What if this deal goes bad? What if Marriott says “no”?  What if the state says “no”?  Heck, what if THE PEOPLE say “no”? What would the potential fallout be?

Mason City may need to look no further than Vista, California, for answers. Hopefully not for foreshadowing, though.

gavel-justiceAccording to the San Diego Tribune, Chodur’s G8 Development Inc. is suing the city of Vista after a downtown development deal fell through. The Tribune wrote that in the lawsuit, “G8 Development Inc. accuses Vista of moving the goal line by changing the project requirements — such as demanding more parking — two years after the initial development agreement was reached in 2008.” The article doesn’t spell out how much money Chodur wants to wring out of Vista, but says “in April, the city rejected a more than $3 million claim filed by G8”.

As you read through the newspaper article, which was just published in October, you may take pause. Some of the phrases in the article sound downright familiar. Eerily familiar.

Take this line: “The deal called for G8 to build … commercial and office space on the dirt lot at the southeast corner of…”.

Ya. This sounds just a little bit like a commercial/residential building (the California structure is much larger, but same concept here on a smaller scale) Chodur says he will build at the corner of 2nd Street NE and Federal Avenue – also a gravelly dirt lot.

The Tribune describes the dirt lot as an “empty parcel (that) has been used for overflow parking — a need that has only grown with the revitalization of the city’s historic downtown.” Currently, in Mason City, our “dirt lot” pegged as the location for the mixed-use building is used for parking – right in the middle of our “historic” downtown.

Later in the story, more snags in the overall project were described when a “parking garage” that was introduced into the project “would have replaced a 33-space public parking lot” that “the City Council balked at” due to losing parking spaces “and also at the suggestion that the city contribute toward maintaining the structure, when the developer (G8) was unable to say how much that might cost.”

Ya. All indications are that Mason City’s parking ramp would replace half of a public parking lot west of city hall (the hotel would take the other, south half of the lot). The city would be in charge of maintaining and running the lot, and charging fees to park there. Our city council, however, is leaping in with both feet at this parking ramp deal, unlike in Vista, where they shot it down.

Eric the mayor, in charge of negotiations in a $36 million development deal. Do you feel confident about this?
Eric the mayor, in charge of negotiations in a $36 million development deal. Do you feel confident about this?

Not many more details were known about the lawsuit – but it is ominous. Chodur seems to be a man that wants things to go his way, and if they don’t, he might ask others to make it right. Here in Mason City, we have a former substitute teacher – farmer – Henkel salesman (now part owner) – councilman/politician (Alex Kuhn) working hand in hand with a “stay at home dad” mayor who’s been out of work for years (Eric) running the negotiations for our city’s $36 million downtown project. Word has trickled back to NIT that the “heavy hitters” across the table representing other parties are having a field day with these two.  And then, the wild card Chodur is in the mix and will likely want a pay-back for his investments in Mason City.  It may be getting to the point that this deal MUST happen – or someone (you and I, the taxpayers) may be held accountable.

Does anyone else feel like something just might go wrong here?

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