Pharos-Tribune

November 25, 2013

Hotel group planning Winamac build

Cobblestone Hotels exploring two sites, gathering investors

by Sarah Einselen Pharos-Tribune
Pharos-Tribune

---- — WINAMAC — Builders from a Wisconsin hotel group are looking to build a two-story, 36-room hotel in Winamac.

BriMark Builders LLC, a sister company of hotel chain Cobblestone Hotels LLC, met with potential investors Wednesday to lay out plans for the $2.5 to $3 million business-leisure hotel that Pulaski County leaders say should be a good fit for the small town.

Cobblestone Hotels aims to build small-scale hotels in under-served markets, according to information distributed at the investors meeting. It operates 32 hotels in 15 states, with eight more under construction, according to a BriMark development representative.

“We look for the Winamacs of the world,” said John Seibert, vice president of development for BriMark, Cobblestone’s general contractor. “That’s really what we go for.”

Seibert sees “pent-up demand” in Winamac, between the local industrial businesses, the hospital and the town being the seat of government for Pulaski County.

Winamac does not currently have a hotel. Town manager James Conner said the idea of getting one in Winamac has been discussed off and on in the 15 years he’s worked for the town.

“People all the time are calling up the office, coming to visit family on the weekend,” said Conner. “And people always ask, ‘Well, where can we stay?’ We’re pretty limited here in town.”

There are a couple of bed-and-breakfast establishments in Winamac, he explained, but the closest hotel is nearly half an hour away.

“We’re not big enough for one of the bigger chains that want to put in an 80, 90-bed unit, something along that line,” said Conner. At last census, the town had just over 2,789 residents. Conner suspects a smaller hotel, such as the ones that Cobblestone Hotels specializes in, “would be a much better fit.”

“I think they’d have a much better chance of success than, I think, a great big one would,” Conner said.

County economic development director Nathan Origer described 25- to 45-minute drives that business and government representatives must make to ferry visitors — prospective vendors or employees, for instance — back and forth from Winamac to hotels in nearby towns like Rochester, Logansport and Culver.

“It would first and foremost make life easier for our employers,” Origer said. “It also has the potential to spur other growth.”

Cobblestone hotels are franchises, said Seibert, and are designed to accommodate both business travelers and families looking for a weekend getaway. The design for the Winamac hotel includes a 50-person meeting room as well as breakfast and wine bars, a guest laundry and exercise room, and a pool about 15 by 30 feet.

BriMark is currently negotiating on two sites along U.S. 35 in Winamac, Seibert said. It’s seeking local investors for the project. Most Cobblestone hotels have about 10-15 investors involved, said Seibert.

The company usually spends about three months gathering its group of investors for a project. After that, drawing up documentation and bidding out the job takes about two months. The actual build typically takes six months, Seibert said.

“I’ve got one under construction right now and it’ll be done in five months,” he added.

One is being built in Salem, in southern Indiana, now. Another Cobblestone hotel, Boarders Inn and Suites, is open in Marion.

Cobblestone Hotels, BriMark Builders and third sister company WHG, a hotel management firm, are owned by co-founders Brian J. Wogernese and Mark C. Pomerenke. The companies are based in Neenah, Wis.

Sarah Einselen is news editor at the Pharos-Tribune. She can be reached at sarah.einselen@pharostribune.com or 574-732-5151. Twitter: @PharosSME