Plans for a new hotel and convention center are now running roughly nine to 12 months behind schedule, Christine Bekes, executive director of the Powell Economic Partnership, told the Powell City …
Plans for a new hotel and convention center are now running roughly nine to 12 months behind schedule, Christine Bekes, executive director of the Powell Economic Partnership, told the Powell City Council on Monday.
The Clocktower Inn, which was slated to break ground in July, is still not ready to proceed.
While things are still moving forward, “we’re a little behind schedule,” Bekes told the Northwest College Board of Trustees earlier this month.
The project is a public-private partnership between the City of Powell and Billings hotelier Steve Wahrlich, who will own and operate the roughly 75-room hotel. A planned conference center that will be attached to the hotel received $2.62 million in state funding. The city will own the conference center if the project gets built. The state’s funding will be released on a reimbursement basis, so if the project doesn’t come to fruition, no state or city funding will be lost.
At the trustees meeting, Bekes cited the project’s $7 million in local investment and said it will increase available hotel lodging in Powell by 50 percent.
If the project is completed, Wahrlich will lease the conference center from the city on a 20-year lease, with an option to buy after 10 years. If that happens, all the public funding will be repaid.
“Gathering the financing has taken up most of the time,” Bekes told the council on Monday. Securing catering services — which Wahrlich accomplished by acquiring Stella’s Kitchen and Bakery near his Billings hotel earlier this year — took more time than expected, she said, and Wahrlich has also been interviewing candidates for a construction manager at risk on the Powell project.
Bekes said she would be formally requesting an updated timeline, which she would then submit to the city. Originally, the Clocktower Inn was to be completed next year.
The PEP leader has been providing monthly updates to the council since June, when she said a deal with a private lender was nearly final but a few details needed to be hammered out. Until that financing is in place, the project can’t move forward.
“The financing piece has not changed as far as I know. There is a traditional lender at the table and private financing as well,” Bekes said, speaking after the meeting.
She met last week with Julie Kozlowski, community development manager with the Wyoming Business Council, to provide the state with updates and discuss if the delays will jeopardize the state funding for the conference center.
Bekes told the council the city did not need any kind of extension on the grant, but may need to go through a process with the Wyoming Business Council if the project moves into the next biennium.
Kozlowski, who was not at the meetings, confirmed in an interview that the state funding is secure and said delays did not impact that status.
“Those funds are encumbered,” she explained, meaning they are set aside and not available for other projects.
“We’re hoping it proceeds expeditiously, but we get it. Sometimes these projects take time to get started,” Kozlowski said.
She also said the project will be very beneficial for the local economy.
At the council meeting, Bekes said the project was generating excitement that was spurring other private business activity. Specifically, she cited the renovation of La Vina Package Liquors into Sage Brews Wine Spirits and the addition of two new gyms. Club Dauntless is under construction next to the planned site of the Clocktower Inn and Anytime Fitness is moving into the former Independent Order of Odd Fellows hall on Clark Street.
“All of those are things that follow the excitement of a project coming,” Bekes said.
Stacy Bair, owner of Club Dauntless, said the decision to open a gym in Powell wasn’t related to the hotel.
“While I am hopeful the hotel project gets underway and is successful, as it would certainly benefit the area, the inspiration behind Club Dauntless was not related to it,” Bair said.
Club Dauntless originally planned to also have a separate business featuring a bar and golfing simulator, which was to provide an important revenue stream for the entire business model. Bair pursued the last remaining retail liquor license for the sports bar, but the city council ultimately decided to grant it to the Clocktower Inn, which still holds the license.
Bair decided to proceed with a standalone gym, which is expected to open in the next few months on a lot near the planned hotel site.
Bekes will give the council another update next month.