Downtown hotel tabled amid parking concerns

Midnight Real Estate, represented by HAF Group, wants to build a hotel on North Main Street in downtown Stillwater between Images of the Past and Johnny’s TV. (Image taken from planning commission packet)
Midnight Real Estate, represented by HAF Group, wants to build a hotel on North Main Street in downtown Stillwater between Images of the Past and Johnny’s TV. (Image taken from planning commission packet)

The Stillwater City Council has tabled approval of a proposed hotel on north Main Street to give developers a chance to resolve the council’s concerns over parking.

Midnight Real Estate LLC has applied for a special use permit to build a 64-room boutique hotel at 232 Main St. N., between Images of the Past and Johnny’s TV. The existing one-story office building on the site, formerly Associated Eye Care, would be demolished.

The hotel would feature a main-floor cafe called “The Boom” with outdoor seating, as well as a full-service restaurant called “The Dacotah” on the third floor. The Dacotah would be open to the public and offer outdoor dining on the second-story rooftop.

Originally the developers had also proposed a new, three-story parking ramp and office building. They
abandoned those elements after discovering poor soil quality on the site meant construction of the ramp wasn’t feasible.

Now the developers want to construct a surface parking lot. The proposed 62-stall lot wouldn’t provide enough spaces to meet city code, however, and it would have to incorporate an adjacent parking lot owned by the city.

“The intent would be to …purchase it and improve that lot and provide a shared parking concept,” said principal developer Daniel Oberpriller during a Feb. 21 city council meeting. He said his company has done it for hotels in the past.

Because there are 25 city-owned parking spaces in the existing lot, the new lot would need to make 25 spaces available for public use during the day. At night they would be used for hotel guests only. But this arrangement would be complicated by the fact that the city currently leases 17 spaces to a nearby business.

In addition to the shared-parking arrangement, the hotel would offer on-site valet parking, which would increase the lot’s capacity, since valets could park cars more compactly.

The hotel would also pay a monthly fee for using other public parking spaces to mitigate the parking shortfall. It’s a common practice downtown — many businesses can’t offer adequate on-site parking and instead pay a per-space fee to use the existing public parking system. The current fee is $10 per space per month.

The downtown parking commission found the developer’s plan acceptable, but the proposal didn’t sit will with some members of the city council, especially Councilmember Tom Weidner.

“To me it doesn’t make any sense,” Weidner told Oberpriller Feb. 21. “It looks like you’re overbuilding something that just doesn’t fit.”

Weidner had qualms about the idea of selling the city’s property, as well.

Other council members also had concerns.

Councilmember Mike Polehna said the city can’t keep increasing the load on the public parking system by renting more and more spaces to private businesses.

Mayor Ted Kozlowski said he doesn’t have much appetite for selling city land unless there’s a compelling reason, but he may be interested in leasing out the city’s lot.

Oberpriller said the developers are willing to work with the city to come up with an arrangement that’s acceptable.

“We’re completely comfortable in working with the city in any form to get this right,” he said.

Oberpriller argued that when it comes to parking, his objectives and the city’s are actually aligned, because the hotel needs to provide customers adequate parking in order to function well.

“We’re going to be responsible business owners, otherwise we wouldn’t build a $13 million hotel,” he said.

He also pointed out that hotels don’t run at full capacity most of the time.

Oberpriller asked the council to approve a requested special use permit on the condition that it would only be valid if an acceptable agreement could be reached regarding parking and use of the city’s lot.

Weidner preferred denying the permit and working toward a new agreement. He suggested the developers consider reducing the number of rooms to make space for parking on their own property.

Other council members didn’t want to deny the permit, but some wanted to see further work on the parking mitigation plan.

The item was tabled until the March 7 meeting.

“I think we can work something out,” Kozlowski said.

Contact Jonathan Young at [email protected]