City receives $250,000 state grant to support development of hotel

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Joining Waterfront Hotel entrepreneurs Brian and Brittany Nichols (far right) for the announcement of the $250,000 WEDC Community Development Investment Grant were (from left) WEDC Regional Economic Development Director Mark Tallman, 96th Assembly Rep. Loren Oldenburg, WEDC Chief Operating Officer Tricia Braun, Driftless Development President Duane Rogers and Mayor Dave Hemmer. (Photo by Correne Martin)

By Correne Martin

The city of Prairie du Chien is receiving a $250,000 state grant to fund the construction of the Waterfront Hotel downtown—a $3.8 million project expected to be completed in August. The developers are Brian and Brittany (Sheckler) Nichols, of Sheckler Development LLC.

A Community Development Investment (CDI) Grant from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) will support the three-story, 57-room hotel project, located on Main Street. This new 30,000-square-foot undertaking will help fill a gap in downtown lodging, which was determined by an October 2018 market analysis of Prairie du Chien. 

“Brittany and I both grew up here and we love our town,” Brian Nichols said. “We’re excited to initiate growth downtown and  serve as a gateway for new opportunities and development not only in our community but also in other area communities.”

Both Brian and Brittany expressed their gratitude for the city, county, regional and state support they’ve experienced.

The $250,000 grant was awarded to this project specifically because of its ability to impact the greater community, according to Tricia Braun, chief operating officer of WEDC, the state’s lead economic development organization. 

“A vibrant downtown is vital to a community’s economic growth, and the Waterfront Hotel will play a key role in bringing more visitors to downtown Prairie du Chien to enjoy the many amenities the city has to offer,” Braun said. “WEDC is committed to working with local communities through its grant programs to foster economic health, quality of life and a sense of community.”

She further explained the process of selecting this project for the grant. Because the city provided one of the lots, the owners are “taking a big risk,” it’s in a commercial area and it’s fulfilling a need, “we come in right as the bricks and mortar part of the project starts.”

A WEDC-sponsored press conference, originally planned for early February but rescheduled due to weather, brought various state officials and media outlets to Prairie du Chien Thursday, March 7, to ceremoniously congratulate local partners on the $250,000 award.

The hotel development is expected to create 12 new jobs in Prairie du Chien. City officials believe this project will not only bring new jobs and enhance the tax base but also encourage tourism and additional development.

“The city of Prairie du Chien is excited about the Waterfront Hotel project,” Mayor Dave Hemmer said. “This is another component in the city’s ongoing community and economic development efforts to strengthen and enhance the resources and qualities that make Prairie du Chien a great place in which to live, work, and visit. The city greatly appreciates the investment that Sheckler Development and WEDC are making in the community.”

Hemmer also acknowledged the city’s prosperity with state recognition and collaboration over the past 10 years in particular. Expressly, in 2017, WEDC awarded a $33,750 CDI Grant to Prairie du Chien to redevelop the former Kozelka’s clothing store downtown into Café Hope and Unity Adult Daycare. In 2016, WEDC assisted Solomon Corporation’s expansion into Wisconsin—in Prairie du Chien’s North Gateway Business Park—with $100,000 in Business Development Tax Credits upon fulfillment of capital investment and job creation requirements. The city also supported that project with a $571,123 loan to be paid back at 0 percent interest over 15 years. 

State Senator Jennifer Shilling and Representative Loren Oldenburg both commented on the project and what it means for the community.

“Prairie du Chien has long identified the need for additional lodging in the downtown area,” Shilling said. “This investment in Prairie du Chien is another example of the benefits of economic development, with new construction and more jobs in the community.”

“The development of this new riverfront hotel is great for tourism in Prairie du Chien,” Oldenburg stated. He further commended WEDC for its $125,000 award toward the Driftless Brewing Company expansion in Soldiers Grove. “Projects like these as well as the $1.2 million addition of Solar Meats in Soldiers Grove all help to spur economic activity in our region and increase employment opportunities across the area.” 

WEDC’s CDI Grant Program supports community development and redevelopment efforts, primarily in downtown areas. The matching grants are awarded based on the ability of applicants to demonstrate the economic impact of the proposed project, including public and private partnership development, financial need, and use of sustainable downtown development practices.

Since the program’s inception in 2013, WEDC has awarded more than $20 million in CDI Grants to 79 communities for projects expected to generate more than $280 million in capital investments statewide.

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