MASON CITY — The developer of the hotel that’s part of the River City Renaissance project had a site visit with city officials on Wednesday in one of the first steps in getting the project underway. The City Council last week approved a development agreement with Gatehouse Mason City LLC for a $24 million, 106-room hotel and convention center.

David Rachie of Gatehouse says it’s always a busy time after signing such an agreement because the company has to get their team together and start signing contracts to get the project going. “We have a short period — we would like to start in the spring as soon as we can, maybe it’ll be early summer, mid to late summer at the latest. We’ve got to bring and we’ve got to finalize the plans, and that’s what we’re doing out here is to make sure where the sewer is going, it is not going to interfere. We have a new boundary which will be very helpful, because the old boundary where the sewers exist is really too tight for what we’re doing. So just getting all that in place and getting ready to kick off. We will have another kickoff meeting here in about two weeks with a full team, so more people from Gatehouse are going to join me.”

Rachie says it took some time to finalize the details of the development agreement because of the complexity of the project. “It’s a complicated project, so there’s so many things you have to start working through. So when you have the skywalk with Music Man Square, you have to deal with Music Man Square, you have to deal with the Department of the Highway in terms of all the regulations on where you can put and how you do it, then you have utility. So really was one of these things where, it’s a big agreement if you’ve read it, and so we’ve had a lot of details to go through. I think it was just normal, we worked really well together, the city and Gatehouse, so it was one of those things that worked well, and probably from the outside it might have been a little frustrating, believe me, we were working the whole time.”

The previous selected developer of the project defaulted after they were not able to show they had secured financing for the project. Rachie says certain things have to happen before they can go out and secure financing for the hotel construction. “What you have to do is you have to get your plans to a point where, and it’s usually about 50% of the detailed construction drawing, so you got to finalize the design, then you have to  actually do the drawings. When we get to that point, then that’s where we work with our general contractor which is Dean Snyder, and once we do that then they can bring it out to bid, and then we put together what’s called a maximum bid project. Once we have a maximum price, that’s when we can go get the financing. Banks don’t really want to talk to you till they know exactly how much it’s going to cost. It’s time-consuming but it’s a pretty straightforward process for us.”

Mayor Bill Schickel says Wednesday’s meeting moves the city one step closer to groundbreaking.  “It’s just great to have the representatives from Gatehouse here, both from their headquarters in Dallas and then the local person from Gatehouse. There’s some utility work that we need to get done in this parking lot, they wanted to take a look at that. This hotel, The Music Man Square Hotel and Conference Center, eventually will be one of the largest taxpayers in Mason City and this is just a huge exciting project.”

The hotel fulfills the private investment portion of the project as part of the Iowa Reinvestment Act.