Bank to hotel conversion plan tops great economic development week in Cedar Rapids

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG)- The largest single investment in the core downtown of Cedar Rapids should start construction soon. It’s a $50-million dollar plus project that will bring two Marriott brand hotels along with an upscale steakhouse to a former bank property.

An artist's illustration of the Heart of America Group conversion of the old downtown Guaranty Bank to a hospitality hub with two hotels and an upscale restaurant.

The project by Heart of America Group will renovate the now empty Guaranty Bank building on 3rd Avenue southeast. A second hotel will involve new construction in the former bank’s parking lot.

The old World Theater building will be renovated as well and serve as an entrance and foyer for the hotels and restaurant.

The original Guaranty Bank building downtown dates to 1896. But in a year and a half, developers and city leaders expect to see a real transformation.

Mike Whalen, CEO of Heart of America Group, promised to not only restore the inside of the old bank but also add a nine-story new building that will complement the historic look.

“I like how they do that often in Europe and integrate sometimes 300-400 year old buildings into new structures. I think it makes both of them more interesting,” Whalen said.

Whalen says the old bank itself will become a 79-room Courtyard by Marriott property catering to business travelers.

The new hotel will be a Marriott A-C Hotel, a contemporary boutique-type property, with 126 rooms.

The celebration of the bank redevelopment followed by hours a groundbreaking for a new Collins Community Credit Union headquarters at the Northtowne Market on Blairs Ferry Road.

That development will add 100,000 square feet of space and cost about $30-million dollars.

Jeff Pomeranz, Cedar Rapids city manager, noted some of the same economic leaders also attended a groundbreaking for a new commercial property on 1st Avenue on Wednesday.

That’s about a $5-million dollar project.

In the city’s last fiscal year, Cedar Rapids recorded about $400-million dollars in construction permits.

The development news this week alone is close to $100-million dollars, or about one quarter of the total last year.

“These are all private dollars, private investors believing in Cedar Rapids and spending their dollars for the future so it really is a big deal,” Pomeranz said.

Heart of America Group leaders say the addition of more than 200 plus hotel rooms downtown should create what they call a “hospitality hub.”

And it should also let the city compete for more and larger convention and group business.

The bank to hotel conversion plan goes before the Cedar Rapids city council next week.

The mayor says the deal, if approved, would give developers $3-million dollars in incentive money when the project is complete.

It also calls for about $13-million dollars in tax breaks over 20 years.