WILLMAR -- Torgerson Properties is planning a nearly $10 million remodeling and refranchising project at the site of the Willmar Holiday Inn, Willmar Conference Center, Green Mill Restaurant and Comfort Inn on U.S. Highway 12 East in Willmar.
The plan review for the project was approved this week by the Willmar Planning Commission.
The Willmar Holiday Inn originally opened at the Highway 12 East site in 1972 and has gone through a number of additions and renovations to where it is today, says Torgerson Properties CEO Tom Torgerson.
"We think the Willmar market can support literally a new complex of this magnitude,'' said Torgerson. "Our facility, though it is performing very well today, over the next 5 to 10 years if we didn't do this significant repositioning, our business would fade over time. So we're really making an investment for the long term, clearly for the next 20 years.''
The 18-month project will begin April 1, 2013, and will include interior and exterior remodeling and architecture, an additional restaurant, new hotel lobby and entrance, additional convention center entrance, hotel expansion and landscaping.
During the first six months, the Comfort Inn will be closed and the building will be "taken down right down to its bones and the concrete,'' as Torgerson describes it. A new third story will add 15 modern-day suites, bringing the total number of rooms to 73.
"When it's done inside and out, it will be like a new-built facility,'' he said. "You won't believe it started with the bones of the old Comfort Inn, completely new architecture on the outside.''
Site work will occur during this time period. The existing parking lot in its entirety will be abandoned and the north parking lot will be moved 40 feet toward Highway 12 and will have new landscaping and space for expansion of the Green Mill Restaurant and the new Hurricane Grill and Wings Restaurant.
During the second six months, the current Holiday Inn will be renovated and converted to a Best Western Plus, which is an upscale Best Western, and will have new exterior architecture, and new west lobby and entrance with new porte cochere (a roofed structure extending from the entrance over an adjacent driveway).
"It's going to really look like a new-build situation when we're done,'' said Torgerson.
During the final six months, the Conference Center will be closed for 30 days in April 2015 for renovation with new décor, audio-video system, new exterior architecture, and addition of a second primary entrance.
The second entrance is needed because the center often has two events going on at the same time.
"One of the neat features of the Conference Center repositioning is each event will have their own entrance, versus one entrance now and that causes confusion and it's uncomfortable, and we're going to correct that situation,'' Torgerson said.
Each restaurant will have its own entrance, its own bar and each will have indoor seating for about 200 and patio seating for 35 to 40. Each restaurant will also have separate kitchens.
Torgerson said the project is being labeled Willmar Legacy Repositioning "because it's where we started 40 years ago. It's exciting for us that the market's grown and we feel confidence it can support this kind of reinvestment, and I feel the end product will really service central and southwest Minnesota.''