Based in Florida, Inner Circle Investments plans multi-million dollar upgrades to hotels in places like Appleton, Wisconsin, and Cheyenne, Wyoming.
Another property in Inner Circle’s portfolio, the Red Lion Hotel in Downtown St. Joseph, remains a facility in flux. The Downtown hotel, the subject of numerous national affiliations and one tax-increment financing package, again sees its future up in the air amid news that it is no longer accepting new visitors. The hotel’s doors were locked early Tuesday morning.
We seem to have come full circle. In 2004, the St. Joseph City Council approved TIF reimbursement to cover $2.7 million in redevelopment costs for what was then known as the St. Joseph Historic District Riverfront Hotel. With the investment, the hotel was able to regain its status as a Holiday Inn, before converting to a Radisson and then a Red Lion hotel. About four years ago, the hotel’s ownership fully met its repayment obligations under the TIF agreement.
The hotel certainly benefited from this investment, but it’s a fair question to ask whether the TIF incentives did enough to revitalize the wider area surrounding the Holiday Inn/Radisson/Red Lion. Downtown today boasts a more vibrant retail climate — shops, bars and restaurants — but it still lacks some of the bigger amenities that would drive business to a hotel in this part of the city.
St. Joseph city officials are faced with a harsh reality. Despite talk of Downtown renewal, a hotel in this part of the city will have a difficult time surviving without some form of public subsidy, either a direct subsidy or an indirect benefit in the form of casino relocation or a Downtown events center to replace the Civic Arena.
Like a gambler who reaches the limit, does the city finally say “enough is enough” and walk away from this hand? Or should the city double-down and use the shaky status of the Red Lion to launch a serious discussion about casino relocation or an expo center?
Unless your vision of the future includes an empty hotel and a drab version of Kansas City’s outdated Kemper Arena, then it’s time to consider some sort of development that makes Downtown more of a destination.
A look at Inner Circle’s website provides cause for optimism and reason for caution in this endeavor.
The group’s investment in the Wisconsin hotel came as that city was moving forward on its own Downtown expo center project.
Inner Circle also markets itself as an ownership group that specializes in turning around distressed and underperforming properties, which isn’t where the TIF’s planners wanted to see St. Joseph’s Downtown hotel 15 years after the original redevelopment agreement.