Norm Fandel
Norm Fandel
JEFFERSON - Jefferson economic-development and city leaders are working on plans for a potential $3.125 million hotel-convention center south of Syngenta Seeds on property owned by the Greene County Development Corp.

The 36-room Cobblestone Inn & Suites would be accompanied by an 8,000-square-foot convention center with full amenities, including an indoor pool.

"We lose so much revenue in lost meetings and business," said Norm Fandel of Jefferson, president of the GCDC. "All large weddings leave our community."

The Jefferson City Council discussed prospects for the GCDC-led development during a special meeting Friday night.

Fandel said the complex would brand Jefferson as more of a destination community, and keep people who otherwise travel to Boone and Carroll and Fort Dodge and Ames.

To this point, investors have raised about $750,000 in private money as part of a $1 million goal. Region 12 Council of Governments is expected to provide a favorable $250,000 loan. The city is considering using tax increment financing - directing the additional tax revenues stemming from the development for a period of years - to the project.

The city is involved in improving drainage and other infrastructure for the project.

The investment group, which includes Neenah, Wis. Cobbletone Hotels, would take a loan to fund the remainder of the project, Fandel said. The hotel development group is still looking for investors. Cobblestone Hotels will have 21 hotels nationwide and has begun development on 35 other locations, including ones in Iowa - Knoxville, Newton, Marshalltown, Vinton, Fayette and Marquette.

There is no timetable on the a possible ground-breaking in Jefferson.

"As soon as we can get firm with our investors," Fandel said of the two-story hotel.

Fandel said the complex likely would boost city hotel-motel tax revenue by $35,000 to $40,000 in Jefferson.

Councilman Gary VonAhsen said he would like to see the project developed with the convention center.

"That's something we just sorely need in this community," he said. "I think we've got to work out a way to get the conference center in there."

Councilman Larry Teeples said the community backs the project but is concerned about finances. He also raised questions about other projects involving city financing being treated equally down the road.

Added Councilman William Figenshaw, "It looks to me like the city is becoming the bank."

The council is expected to take up the matter again at a Tuesday, Feb. 12, meeting. The city's primary decision will be on the possibility of extending tax increment financing, city officials said.

Cobblestone sees Jefferson as part of its broader growth strategy

"The goals we put in place for our brand was 50 properties by 2015," Brian Wogernese, president of Cobblestone Hotels, said in a news release. "In 2012 we reached 21 properties, and many that we broke ground on in 2012 will be open in the first quarter of 2013. Everyone at Cobblestone Hotels could not be happier with this exciting growth."

Cobblestone Hotels opened its ninth property in Marquette, Iowa, in December.