Developers propose hotel, additional amenities in downtown Owatonna

This city-owned vacant lot on Cedar Avenue North would become part of the site of a new hotel, restaurant and entertainment development announced Monday by a national hospitality management firm. (William Morris)

By: William Morris
January 16, 2018

A hospitality developer is partnering with a local investor to bring a major new hotel and related development to downtown Owatonna.

HK Hospitality Management, which specializes in “management, marketing, asset management and hotel ownership in the hospitality industry,” announced by press release Monday it has partnered with Steve Judd of Owatonna to develop the Historical District Showcase Centre.

“HK is currently working on taking the excellent development plan put together by Mr. Judd and his associates and researching additional opportunities to attract a side audience that will include all ages from the area and future patrons from surrounding communities to the very core of Owatonna,” according to the statement. “Currently under consideration are new restaurants, entertainment venues, shops, hotel and a center for civic activities and entertainment.”

The statement does not describe any further details of the proposed development but says HK officials will present a preliminary agreement to the City Council at the upcoming Jan. 23 meeting to move the project forward. The statement does not specify where exactly the development will go, but Owatonna Community Development Director said one reason for the preliminary development agreement is to secure the city’s promise not to sell to anyone else a vacant lot it currently owns in the 200 block of Cedar Avenue North, the site of the former State Theater, which was demolished in 2012.

Klecker said the city has worked with Judd, a former Federated Insurance executive, for several years on ideas for redeveloping downtown, and the process has accelerated in recent months since Judd brought HK in.

“The concept of this project is really exciting for downtown Owatonna,” Klecker said. “It brings in people downtown, provides a lot of activity, and so we are excited about this project and trying to bring it downtown.”

Owatonna Area Chamber of Commerce and Tourism President Brad Meier said the developers have visited Owatonna repeatedly, doing due diligence on the proposal, and said he’s likewise excited to see further development in the pipeline for downtown.

“I give Steve Judd a lot of credit for really continuing the work on this development idea for downtown and working with a group that is reputable in it and really trying to make it a reality,” he said.

HK has offices in Florida and Minnesota, and between its principal partners has successfully redeveloped historic locations in the San Francisco area, Georgia, Wisconsin, downtown Philadelphia, New York and Boston, according to its statement. Partner Steve Hedberg, a Minnesota native, wrote that over several months studying the proposal, “the more I learned, the stronger my commitment has grown,” while partner Jim Kelley praised local officials for their support of the project.

“Seldom do we find opportunities like Owatonna, where there is so much community support as we have received from city officials, the economic development community and many of the business leaders,” he wrote. “This is combined with a robust, vibrant population that can support such a development.”

The statement does not describe the estimated timeframe for the project, nor the price tag it is expected to carry, but city officials say they expect more of that information to become public at the upcoming council meeting or soon thereafter. Klecker said that the developers have not yet approached the city about TIF funding or other municipal support.

Mayor Tom Kuntz said he’s enthusiastic to see the project move forward.

“If what I’ve seen so far comes into reality, it will be an excellent item for downtown Owatonna,” he said. “You know, I think that with the Ace Hardware opening up, and some of the discussions going on for the old Ace Hardware building, and if we can make this happen across the street, what an excellent kickoff for all of downtown Owatonna.”

William Morris got his start in the newspaper trade as a recurring editorial intern in Wisconsin and has been writing about business, government and crime at the Owatonna People’s Press since 2015. He now splits his time working with the newspaper and as Associate Editor for Forge.

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