CONNEAUT — September saw the city of Conneaut take a big step in the potential construction of a hotel along the city’s lakefront.

City Council, at a recent meeting, authorized City Manager James Hockaday to solicit resumes from developers interested in such a project. Council’s vote was a major legislative move on a project that could see a boutique hotel overlooking Lake Erie in just two years.

A hotel on the site of Lakeview Park has been discussed for some time. It is a priority development project in the city’s comprehensive plan, enacted earlier this year.

With council’s blessing, Hockaday next month will publish a notice advertising the hotel project and inviting developers to submit their qualifications to take on such a task. Submissions will be evaluated and ranked, he said.

When the scoring process is complete at the end of this year, the city will then ask developers who qualify to provide a hotel proposal that incorporates the city’s vision. Meetings in advance of that phase will allow the public to share their thoughts on the subject.

The city expects to request proposals in the first quarter of 2019 and select the successful candidate some time in the second or third quarter of next year, Hockaday said. Barring snags, construction could start in 2020, he said.

The request-for-proposals phase is the “meat and potatoes” of the process, where the city can exert some influence on the final concept, Hockaday said. The RFP process is similar to the method used to transform a vacant downtown building slated for demolition, the former Bunkhouse nightclub, into a office building that houses three tenants.

Hockaday is hopeful the hotel project will generate a lot of attention among developers. The qualifications phase will be a good indicator of the project’s future success, he said.

“Either we’ll get a lot of interest or no interest,” Hockaday said.

The city envisions a hotel that features a restaurant and other amenities on land that is now home to a publicly-owned trailer park and recreation area. The trailer park will shut down at the end of this year. Nearly all the tenants have already vacated the property.

Cost of the hotel project could range between $15 million to $20 million, Hockaday said.

Officials have stressed the city will maintain ownership and control of the land. “It is never not going to be our property,” Hockaday said.

A feasibility study gave a thumbs-up to the concept of a hotel at the site. The location is perfect for a town in need of extra lodging space, Hockaday said.

“It’s ready and it’s ripe,” he said. “What an opportunity to hook development. It’s an awesome economic opportunity to generate revenue for the community.”

Stephanie Siegel, executive director of the Ashtabula County Convention and Visitors Bureau, said Conneaut would certainly benefit from another hotel. The county didn’t lack for overnight guests last year, she said: one million people spent at least one night in the county in 2017, she said.

Boaters would love accommodations so close to the water, she said. Millennials, meanwhile, are keen on hotels that offer “nice, clean, unique experiences” — and a spot along the lake meets those criteria, Siegel said.

“We’re totally supportive of (Conneaut’s hotel plan),” she said.

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