COUNCIL HEARS HOTEL PROPOSAL

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By Pam Reinig

Register Editor

 

The Elkader City Council met last Thursday night for a presentation that could mean a new hotel for the town. 

Abdelmalek (Malek) Sahraoui, an Algerian businessman who has visited Elkader several times, has suggested that he would cover the cost of a hotel if the city provides property for it. Sarah Tata, who represented Sahraoui at the meeting, gave some very preliminary information on the project and also shared sketches of what the hotel might look like.

The proposal includes construction of a 36- to 40-room hotel with an indoor swimming pool that would occupy the space between the current city pool and the shelter house. The shelter house, which would be updated at Sahraoui’s expense, would form the far wing of the building. 

As part of the overall project, Sahraoui has suggested he might cover the cost of a new outdoor city pool and possibly assume financial responsibility for its operation. The current pool is an aging structure that regularly needs expensive repairs. At Thursday’s meeting, for example, the council approved a $10,000 pipe repair. The pool operates an annual loss of $30,000 to $40,000.

The proposed hotel project might also encompass renovations to the shelter house. According to City Administrator Jennifer Cowsert, that structure needs new wood siding (only about one-third of the boards have been replaced), painting, windows (re-glazed or repaired) and a new roof, all of which adds up to more than $75,000, which the city does not have. Saharoui has suggested he would cover these costs, as well, and that the shelter house could become a hotel annex.

Cowsert emphasized that the plan is in the very preliminary stages. “This is all still being explored,” she said. “Once we have more information, we will share it. But this is all still in the ‘idea’ stage.”

Council members had several questions ranging from transfer of property to flood plain issues to occupancy projections . But their overriding concern was the need for public input. Moving the project forward would not require a vote but, as council member Peggy Lane noted, “I don’t feel comfortable moving forward without serious public input.”

Former Elkader Bob Garms attended the meeting and spoke favorably about the project, assuming that neither the pool or shelter house was displaced by it.

This is the second time this year that the idea of an Elkader hotel financed by Saharoui has been brought to the council. Earlier this year, Elkader Mayor Josh Pope discussed a town tour he took with Sahraoui to look at other prospective sites, including a lot next to Johnson’s Restaurant, property in Breezy Summit, and land at the intersection of Gunder Road and High Street NE. All were rejected by Sahraoui who wants something visible from Highway 13 and closer to downtown. Sahraoui currently owns two, four-star hotels. If one is built here, it will be his first American property.

A decision was tabled pending more information and a plan for public discussion.

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