Amana Woolen Mill Salesroom demolished, making room for area revitalization

AMANA, Iowa (KCRG) - A portion of the Amana colonies is making room for a number of new businesses. With it comes to the goal of returning Amana to a state-wide destination.

The former Amana Woolen Mill Salesroom, originally built in 1957, is in the process of being torn down to make room for the area's revitalization project. Area leaders say the goal with the new amenities is to build up a new reason for people to visit Amana and stay longer than an afternoon.

For Jeff Popenhagen, the piles of decades-old brick is a sign of positive change for the area.

"You know you gotta make a lot of dirt before you get where you want to be," Popenhagen said, who serves as Director of Marketing and Retail Sales for the Amana Society Inc.

Popenhagen says the demolition of the salesroom building paves the way for their new hotel, event center, restaurants, bars, and retail space to appeal to a younger demographic.

"We had to move that out to add some green space and start working towards our future- which is going to be the Hotel Millwright," Popenhagen said.

The Hotel Millwright will have 65 rooms and an event center for weddings and other large events, that is planned to fit parties of 250 people. Popenhagen said they want to turn Amana back into the tourism spot it was in the 1980's.

"There's competition all around us and if you don't do something better for the customer, then they're going to go somewhere else," Popenhagen said. "It's more about experiences these days and we know that. Our customers, they want to see things, they want to stay some place unique and special. And we just had to offer that for them."

For those nearby at Millstream Brewing Company, literally across the street from the construction, ownership says they are looking forward to the completion of the project- because it could in turn boost their business, too.

"People can enjoy this end of town and enjoy a beer, enjoy supper and just walk across the street to their rooms," said Teresa Albert, the co-owner of Millstream Brewing Company.

She says they are already considering what could be on tap for their future.

"We're already thinking what else can we do now that we've got accommodations right here at the end of town," Albert said. "How can we partner up with them."

With continuing construction, Popenhagen said it was important that they preserve and appreciate a lot of the original architecture and features. He said he hoping it is the authenticity that could prove game changing.

"When you come in here and you see the stone from 1950, we're going to be able to tell that story," Popenhagen said. "We're going to have to be story tellers."

With that further development of the hotel and new area, Albert thinks this could allow Amana to grow significantly.

"I just see things getting bigger and bigger in the Amana colonies because of that," Albert said.

Construction on this project began in August 2018. Popenhagen said they are hoping to have the area completed with all of the amenities by 2020.