Hotel work will start soon after Thin Brick approval from council

A developer plans to break ground in late March on a Hampton Inn along Des Moines’ downtown riverfront following Monday’s final approval of the project by the City Council.

The project, which will also include a parking garage and extended stay hotel, needed council approval to gain a financial incentives package that includes 23 years of property tax breaks and a $1.1 million loan.

The assistance gave city officials and nearby residents a voice in shaping the project, located at Water Street and Second Avenue. The developer had originally planned a single suburban-style Hampton Inn and surface-level parking lot, valued at a total of $14.4 million.

Now, the developer plans a $32.3 million multi-structure project with a more urbanized design many deem more fitting for the downtown location.

For Iowa City developer Ravi Patel of Hawkeye Hotels, reaching an agreeable design involved a marathon of meetings with city boards, councils and commissions, as well as coffee and lunch dates with downtown residents, many of whom saw the hotel as an unwanted neighborhood intrusion. Patel lived in Des Moines half of January, with close to 50 trips here on project business before that, he said.

A final snag for the project involved disagreement over the hotels’ brick façades. Patel wanted to use thin brick panels. A city design board of residents and architects wanted thicker traditional bricks, an added expense of about $400,000.

Patel called the request a “deal breaker,” one that even visited him in his dreams. “I dreamt some of the neighborhood kids tried to kick the thin brick off the buildings,” he told the council Monday morning. “And they failed, of course, due to the correct installation.”

Last week, City Manager Rick Clark and his staff sided with Patel. A recommendation to the council advised allowing the thin brick panels as long as they were properly applied.

The panels adhere to a building’s underlying structure. Normal bricks, when used as a veneer, anchor onto an underlying structure.

A detailed PowerPoint presentation from city officials convinced the council, who voted 6-1 to approve the project.

Completion of the 129-room Hampton Inn and its parking ramp should be finished by spring 2013. The extended stay hotel, should debut by the end of 2013, Patel said. He told the council he would use local labor on the project.