Sep. 19—In just 475 days, an Ottumwa dream for about 20 years was realized.
The Cobblestone Hotel and Suites adjacent to the Bridge View Center opened its doors to the public for the first time Monday with a ribbon-cutting ceremony in front of investors, stakeholders and hotel staff, completing a long-awaited project that will, theoretically, bring more events to the city and add a place for people to stay while in the city.
The four-story, 84-unit hotel is also the first one outside of Wisconsin, where Cobblestone is based, to have a Wissota Chophouse, an upscale dining venue nestled inside the lobby of the hotel.
"Do you remember what the weather was like on May 31 last year?" asked Jeremy Griesbach, president of development for Cobblestone, when referring to the groundbreaking ceremony. "It was storming and raining.
"But all's well that ends well."
Many different entities contributed to the project from start to finish, raising capital and offering the development group a tax rebate to built on property just south of Bridge View Center. The project has never been easy and had gone in fits and starts before Cobblestone jumped in with interest to put a hotel in Ottumwa.
"Ottumwa should be very, very proud and excited for what is going on in the community," Griesbach said. "It took us probably nine months or so to raise the money, maybe a little longer, to find the equity and the local investors to get this deal done.
"When you look at it, it's not that long. Some of our other projects we've been working on for three to five years."
Mayor Rick Johnson said the hotel "will be a game-changer in the future."
"It's been a very monumental day for Ottumwa," he said. "This is finally a reality for Ottumwa, and we really needed additional hotel space, as well as nice restaurants. We have both with this facility."
Bridge View board president Jamie Scott recalled the day of the groundbreaking, and the task to get the hotel built.
"On May 31 of last year I stood at the groundbreaking and said that Cobblestone Hotel and Suites would be an important component of how we we could serve our community," she said. "Now, 475 days later, we stand not under, but in front of a completed hotel having the first Wissota Chophouse in Iowa, featuring 20 Iowa microbrews, has shown the commitment to our community.
"This 84-room property gives us 84 opportunities to deliver outstanding experiences to visitors across the country and the world. The impact of this hotel will be felt for years and decades to come."
Griesbach commended local leadership to coming to the forefront to deliver the 170th Cobblestone hotel, in 29 states.
"Ottumwa is very blessed to have local people who understand that to get things done in a community, the locals need to step up, not only with their effort and time, but also their wallet," he said.
"When Brian Wogernese (Cobblestone CEO and founder) was alive, he always had a way of these grand openings of talking to the staff," Griesbach said. "He understood operations and how hard it is, especially when you rush to ope these things. He always said we're turning the keys over to you guys (the staff).
"It just so happens it's a $10 million car," he chuckled. "So you might not want to get any scratches on it and drive 5 mph under the speed limit please."
— Chad Drury can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, and on Twitter @ChadDrury