SIOUX CITY | A state panel on Tuesday will review Sioux City’s revised bid for nearly $14 million in tax dollars for a series of big-ticket projects that include a $25 million upscale downtown hotel.
City officials are negotiating with an Iowa-based company to develop the 150-room hotel that would be connected to the Sioux City Convention Center and a new 140-space parking ramp. Economic development director Marty Dougherty declined to identify the developer, which would partner with a top-tier national hotel chain.
A convention center hotel is one of three main elements in the city’s Reinvestment District application to the Iowa Economic Development Authority Board. With a total price tag of about $72 million, the other projects include a $22.9 million agriculture expo learning center at the site of the former John Morrell plant, and $24.2 million for Ho-Chunk Inc.’s Virginia Square, which calls for the conversion of two older industrial buildings in the 100 block of Virginia Street into commercial space.
Another downtown hotel also has emerged as a potential addition to the reinvestment district. In its revised application to the state, the city expanded the boundaries of the district to take in the historic Warrior and Davidson buildings.
In recent months, the city has been meeting with Lew Weinberg, owner of the two adjoining structures in the 500 block of Sixth Street. The Davidson, the city’s first office building when it opened in 1913, is envisioned as a 97-room boutique hotel with a 100-seat restaurant, while the Warrior, a landmark hotel that closed more than 40 years ago, could be converted into a 14,000-square-foot retail and restaurant space with a ballroom, office space and apartments, according to the application.
“We made those properties eligible, but there would still have to be a number of steps for those projects to happen,” Dougherty said of the Warrior and Davidson. “However, as it stands … the three projects we have submitted are the ones the state will be considering to be put into an agreement.”
Weinberg, a longtime Sioux City-based developer, said he has not entered into an agreement with the city.
In June, the IEDA board tentatively awarded to Sioux City $8.03 million in future sales and hotel taxes generated within the proposed reinvestment district. As part of a multi-step application process, the funds were contingent on the city clearing benchmarks such as signing agreements with private developers and securing sufficient financing.
Last month, the IEDA invited Sioux City and three other cities that won provisional awards last summer to request a portion of the $10.75 million that another recipient, Davenport, forfeited after scrapping plans for a $73.8 million sports complex.
Given a second chance, Sioux City is now seeking the original $13.9 million in tax funds.
At its monthly meeting Tuesday, the IEDA’s due diligence committee will revisit applications from Sioux City, Grinnell, Coralville and Mason City. A three-member city delegation will attend the meeting in Des Moines.
"We're going to answer any questions from the due diligence committee," said Dougherty, who is scheduled to be joined at the meeting in Des Moines by city finance director Donna Forker and city economic development specialist Renae Billings. "Our understanding is they probably won't make a final vote.”
City officials contend the projects would spur additional tourism and economic development, a chief goal of the Reinvestment District program state lawmakers authorized two years ago. Specifically, local officials are looking to improve the fortunes of the city-owned convention center, which has struggled in recent years due to the decline of the only hotel connected via the skywalk, a one-time Hilton that was rebranded as a Howard Johnson last year.
The proposed full-service hotel would be built on the parking lot east of the convention center. Though not officially part of the reinvestment district project, the project also calls for construction of 7,500 square feet of “pre-function” space that would connect the hotel to the convention center, and the remodeling of 7,500 square feet of existing space in the convention center into a ballroom.
The city would be responsible for financing and constructing the ballroom and pre-function space, at an estimated cost of $4.8 million. A two-level parking ramp, at an estimated cost of $3.1 million, would be built just north of the existing convention center parking lot, adjacent to Fifth Street. The minimum 140 stalls would serve the hotel, convention center and adjacent Historic Fourth District.
Of the $13.9 million in reinvestment district funds requested by the city, $5.6 million would go to the convention center hotel and parking ramp.
About $6.7 million would be invested in the new Ag Expo & Learning Center project. The center, which would host equestrian, livestock shows and various other farm shows, would include a 3,000-seat arena, a warm-up arena, livestock pens and a stockyards hall of fame. Bomgaars, a Sioux City-based retailer that has pledged funds for the center, has committed to opening a store in the center.
The project also calls for construction of an $8 million hotel with 60 rooms on the ag center site.
The city has pledged $2 million for the ag center. A $1 million grant from Missouri River Historic Development, a local nonprofit gaming group, is expected to help fund the extension of the riverfront trail from the ag expo site to Chris Larsen Park. The trail will be connected with a new bridge across the Floyd River.
About $1.6 million in reinvestment funds would go toward Virginia Square, which would provide a new entry into downtown upon completion of the Interstate 29 reconstruction project.
Ho-Chunk, the economic development corporation for the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska, is currently renovating former industrial buildings that date to the early 1900s. Ho-Chunk plans to use the space for mixed-use developments such as upscale lofts, offices, restaurants and shops.