|The City of Galesburg wouldn't mind converting a former storage facility into a so-called boutique hotel, but the city manager says a study reveals that may not be the only option.
Dane Bragg, during a City Council work session Tuesday night, presented a shortened version of a feasibility study to determine whether the former Ferris Moving and Storage facility on Mulberry street could be converted as part of the 2008 Downtown Strategic plan that would benefit, among other things, downtown retailers, Knox College, and the proposed site of the National Railroad Hall of Fame in Colton Park.
Bragg says if the Hall is built, that could translate into a need for 30 to 40 upscale hotel rooms that could charge $120 to $130 a night.
Or, Bragg says, the council could want to start small and see what happens.
"What I would call a 'phased hotel project'," Bragg said. "That would be to provide for the conversion of the facility to meet the current demand -- so, maybe, up to 15 rooms -- which would be approximately the second floor, with the plan to expand that room count into the third floor as other attractions...develop and demand is generated."
Or, the city could choose to do nothing and wait until opportunities for development come to them, they could rehab the building into mid-priced rooms like many of the city's other hotels already have, or they could convert the building into loft apartments.
Mayor Sal Garza says he isn't so sure the feasibility study done is all that good.
Garza cited numbers that were from 2008 that indicated that with around 560-rooms at hotels in the city, the occupancy rate was anywhere between 60 and 70 percent -- usually a good number for a community this size.
Garza says the way he sees it, there's no way occupancy rates are that good now given the economy. And the mayor says there might have been some numbers left out of the study. "They cite the three hotels -- one in Knoxville, and two in Monmouth," Garza said. "But they don't include that in terms of the number of available rooms, and that's a concern of mine. When they talk about the number of rooms that there may be demand for if the National Railroad Hall of Fame is realized, I think that's a little bit misleading."
Garza says if the National Railroad Hall of Fame is built and located in the city's Colton Park area as planned, all area hotels could expand, or at least, cash in on the potentially-increased hotel stays.
Seventh Ward Alderman Mike Lummis suggested that given the state of the economy, maybe holding on to the building might not be a bad idea. "I think this property will become more valuable to us," Lummis said. "I'm in no rush to put a lot of extra money into it right now. If the value is realized, the developers will come. For now, I'm in favor of maintaining it, keeping it in good stead, not putting a lot of money into it."
That was a feeling that Mayor Sal Garza agreed with.
First Ward Alderman Ken Goad says whatever happens with the Ferris Building, it shouldn't be done by the city. "I'm not in favor of the city developing anything on that property," Goad said. "That's not our job. We are to run the city, we are not to develop hotels. I would be totally against the city putting one dollar into it, other than for fair maintenance."
At least one alderman suggested developing a mid-priced hotel on the site instead of a boutique hotel, and another suggested that the city and aldermen are underestimating the value of the property and its potential.
Bragg does say there's at least one firm that's already interested in the building.
(City Manager Dane Bragg presents a presentation on the boutique hotel feasibility study to aldermen during a work session Monday night.)
(Ferris Moving and Storage from a file photo. WGIL News Story and Photos by Will Stevenson.)