Breaking new ground in downtown Hartford
Officials mark start of hotel’s construction

By JOE VANDELAARSCHOT - Daily News

Sept. 14, 2017

President of Development Jeremy Griesbach, left, smiles as he shakes the hand of CEO of WHG Professional Hospitality Management Brian Wogernese during the groundbreaking ceremony for the Cobblestone Hotel Wednesday morning in Hartford. The hotel is expected to be open in the spring of 2018.
John Ehlke/Daily News


HARTFORD — City officials and business leaders saw another step taken Wednesday morning toward downtown redevelopment when ground was broken on what will be the downtown’s newest feature — the Cobblestone Hotel and Wissota Chop House.

Brimark Builders will construct the hotel on behalf of the Neenah-based Cobblestone Hotels LLC. The new hotel will have four stories with 60 rooms that would include typical hotel rooms, suites and extended stay rooms. In addition the hotel will include a restaurant, meeting room, an exercise room and a pool. Officials hope to have construction completed by late spring or early summer. The building site is in the 100 block of East Sumner Street and directly in front of the city’s Jack Russell Memorial Library. A hotel was identified as one of the key catalytic projects to spur downtown development. Mayor Tim Michalak said the new hotel is one of the ways the city is trying to cater to businesses.

“This will be a phenomenal addition to our downtown and will help bring more travelers and business to the city and downtown,” Michalak said.

Because the project will be completed in the city’s TIF District No. 10, which was created for downtown redevelopment, the city will be repaid the money it spent to purchase the properties where the hotel is being built with extra revenue generated in the district from increased taxes due to new development in the district and higher property values.

“A business class hotel would create additional business opportunities for shops, restaurants and bars within the downtown,” City Planner Justin Drew said earlier.

CEO of WHG Professional Hospitality Management Brian Wogernese smiles as he and other dignitaries symbolically break ground for the Cobblestone Hotel during a groundbreaking ceremony Wednesday morning in Hartford.
John Ehlke/Daily News

Cobblestone Hotels LLC, President Brian Wogernese said the new hotel will be the “spitting image” of the hotel the company already operates in Stevens Point. “We’ve been very successful with our plan for downtown hotels,” Wogernese said.

Hartford Area Development Corporation Executive Director Tom Hostad said he’s already seen the “finished product” elsewhere.

“We’re all very enthused about what this new hotel will provide,” Hostad said. “Similar hotels by Cobblestone elsewhere are very nice and will be a plus for the community. This days is really due to the collaborations of several organizations.”

BriMark Builders President Jeremy Griesbach said he’s excited about the Hartford project because he graduated from Hartford Union High School in 1992.

Brian Seebruck with BriMark Builders talks on the phone near a pile of rubble before the groundbreaking ceremony.
John Ehlke/Daily News

“This had been something we’ve been hoping to accomplish for many years,” Griesbach said. “It has a special meaning for me too because of my graduating from HUHS and living in this community for some time. This will be a great fit for Hartford.”

HUHS Superintendent Attila Weninger was also part of the groundbreaking celebration. He introduced two junior HUHS students, Olivia Pusch and Tate Stoeckman, who presented Griesbach with an HUHS hat and athletic gear to recognize the achievement of the HUHS graduate.

As part of the developer’s agreement with the city, Cobblestone Development agreed to pay the city $600,000 for the property acquired by the city for the site. In return the city agreed to pay the developer back $599,999 within five days of closing.

“The city will be able to be repaid that amount from the additional taxes that are generated in the TIF District that the hotel is included in,” Michalak said earlier.

Cobblestone Development has other obligations, according to the developer’s agreement.

“The developer agrees that in the event the annual property tax payment associated with the property, but not including any Business Improvement District Assessments, is less than $100,000 the developer will make a payment in lieu of taxes in the amount of the difference between the $100,000 and the annual property tax payment for a period of 14 years,” said the agreement. “Traffic will only be able to enter, and not exit the hotel parking area by use of Sumner Street. Traffic will have to exit using Park Avenue.”

Progress on constructing a new hotel in downtown Hartford slowed to the point last fall where officials involved decided to part ways with the first developer. That’s when Neenah-based Cobblestone Hotels LLC stepped into the picture with a deal that eventually came to fruition.

According to the company website, Cobblestone Hotels fills the lodging needs of communities through its upper mid-scale new build brand. Experiencing significant growth since it opened its first property in Clintonville in January of 2008, they offer upper-mid-scale hotel accommodations across the country. The company already has 74 hotels open in the United States and 11, not counting the Hartford location, that are under construction.

The most recent Hartford downtown redevelopment effort started in the summer of 2015 when a coalition of nonprofit, government, and private groups hired Vandewalle and Associates, a Milwaukee/Madison-based redevelopment and urban planning expert, to produce a downtown redevelopment strategy. Together the team developed a plan that was adopted in February 2016 and is already translating into real development and improvements downtown.

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