Hotel planned for Amana Colonies

The Gazette
Business

A boutique hotel planned for the Amana Colonies’s iconic woolen mill complex will draw new visitors to one of the state’s most popular tourist attractions, according to John Peterson, president and CEO of the Amana Society.

“We need something, and have for years, that’s big enough to attract people who want to do a business meeting in the Amanas, or if they want to do a destination wedding,” Peterson said.

Cedar Rapids-based Hobart Historic Restoration will manage the project, which will draw on federal historic tax credits.

The Amana Historic Preservation Commission and the Amana Colonies Land Use District have signed off on the conversion of the 1850s-era woolen mill building.

“We’ll be restoring it back to a period maybe 50 or 75 years ago,” Peterson said. “That’s our model.”

A few newer buildings will be demolished, including one that now houses woolen mill operations, Peterson said.

“It opens up the site a lot more to other things we’d like to do,” he said.

The project will make use of several of the woolen mill’s oldest buildings left vacant by its 1985 move to purchase yarn from outside suppliers. Before that, the mill spun its own yarn from raw wool.

“It’s too precious to fall apart, and if we don’t do something with them they’re going to fall down,” Peterson said of the buildings.

The project will have little effect on daily operations at the woolen mill, where production will continue on the first and third floor of the original 1860s weaving building.

The operation usually will remain open to visitors.

“We’ll do it pieces at a time,” Peterson said. “There may be times when it may be closed for a day or two here and there.”

A 7,000-square-foot banquet and conference center will go into the second floor of the weaving building. The full-service 65-room boutique hotel will occupy some of the oldest buildings in the complex that aren’t currently used.

A hotel project has been under consideration since about 2010, Peterson said. A new building was considered at one point.

“It was never in quite the right configuration or quite the right price tag to make it work,” he said, noting the Amana Society’s for-profit status renders it ineligible for some historic preservation grants.

The hotel will be managed by IDM Hospitality Management. The Madison, Wis., company manages nine other properties including the Hotel Julien in Dubuque.

Work should start in June or July and run 18 to 20 months, Peterson said.

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