by ZACH KAYSER
Three years after an unsuccessful attempt to develop the lot at 60 Main Street, the city picked a team of developers on Thursday to finally finish the job.
The space, which is now a city parking lot, was slated to be developed into a hotel by Twin Cities firm Sherman Associates, but Sherman Associates dropped out of the project in late 2018 citing increased hotel competition in Winona.
Since then, the city undertook a hotel feasibility study to find out if building a hotel on the site would work. The study, completed by commercial real estate company Newmark Knight Frank out of New York, said a 59-room, moderately priced hotel could work as long as there was adequate parking onsite.
On Thursday, the Port Authority tentatively selected a developer for the site following private conversations between city staff and three interested developers, a departure from the past practice of putting out a request for proposal (RFP) to solicit competitive bids from developers, reviewed by a public committee. This process also is more attractive to developers, who can avoid the risk of putting together a bid only to see their time and money wasted when the city chooses someone else, city manager Steve Sarvi told the Post. “The letters of interest were strong enough for the recommendation to go forward to choose one of them and work on a developer’s agreement rather than put it out to the world for another RFP process,” he said. “It’s time-consuming, and I think we have strong enough interest, and developers that have the wherewithal to get it done, that we don’t really need to look much further.”
Sarvi, who is also the executive secretary of the Port Authority in addition to being Winona city manager, said he was intrigued by the possibilities offered by the design team. Sarvi said that despite the pandemic hurting restaurants and bars, the economic situation in the property development sector was booming. From the failed partnership with Sherman Associates, the city had learned the lesson of maintaining lines of communication with developers, he said. As for how replacing the parking lot would affect overall parking availability in the city, Sarvi said it was a concern, but it shouldn’t be the only concern.
On the recommendation of city staff, the Port Authority chose a development team of three locally connected companies: C.D. Smith Construction, Latsch Development, and Rivers Hospitality. Their proposal for the site includes a hotel in addition to housing, as well as retail space.
As city staff noted, C.D. Smith is the firm working on the new Fastenal building downtown, Latsch Development has completed several projects in Winona including the Latsch and Sons building renovation, and Rivers Hospitality maintains four hotels in Winona.
Staff will now negotiate with the three-part team over a three-month period to come up with a design plan for the 60 Main lot, then return to the Port Authority to present their findings.