Willmar Planning and Development looking at bringing a hotel to downtown, perhaps connected to Rice Memorial Hospital

Shelby Lindrud, West Central Tribune, Willmar, Minn.
·2 min read

Apr. 17—WILLMAR — The Willmar Planning and Development Department continues to add to its vision for downtown Willmar as part of the Renaissance Zone economic development program.

In addition to bringing in more business and housing and helping property owners rehabilitate their properties, there is also an idea to try and entice a hotel to call downtown home.

"We feel it would be a great amenity for the downtown area, especially as we begin developing some of these projects in our pipeline," said Dave Ramstad, Willmar Planning and Development director, during Monday's meeting of the Willmar City Council's Community Development Committee.

Ramstad was looking for committee agreement to continue fleshing out the hotel idea, including creating a request for proposals that could one day be sent to various hotel chains.

"We wanted to make sure we received committee approval to go outside the committee to vet this thing," Ramstad said.

The committee gave its OK. Ramstad will return to the committee and full City Council for final approval on the proposal before it is sent out.

"This is still an open book, on what we can add, take out and edit," Ramstad said.

Ramstad's vision isn't for just a normal hotel for regular travelers to Willmar. Instead, he would like to see the hotel be geared toward and constructed near Carris Health — Rice Memorial Hospital. It would offer patients, families and staff a comfortable place to stay when needed.

"It would be a specialty hotel, accessible to gurneys, doors wide enough for wheelchairs," Ramstad said. Sites being focused on for such an enterprise are all adjacent to the hospital, making it possible to connect the two facilities through a tunnel or skyway.

The hotel would be open to all members of the public, not just those using the medical facilities.

Ramstad wants to work with Carris Health on the hotel proposal and has had preliminary discussions with CEO Mike Schramm. Those discussions will now continue, with the committee's blessing.

If Carris Health decides not to be part of the idea, Ramstad said the city could always change direction.

The hotel development would be a private enterprise, the city only providing the Renaissance Zone incentives, such as free building permits and utility hookups.

"I like to create the fertile ground, to bring the developers in," Ramstad said.

While there isn't a set timeline for the project, staff would like to see it completed before the five-year Renaissance Zone pilot program expires.

"This is at the very ground floor," of the planning stages, Ramstad said.