Potawatomi casino hotel will tower over Menomonee Valley

Forest County Potawatomi tribal leaders and Potawatomi Bingo Casino executives say casino patrons frequently ask when the casino is going to add a hotel.

“That’s the number one question we get (from patrons),’ said Mike Goodrich, the casino’s general manager. “The casino guests have been asking for it. They come in and say, ‘Where’s the hotel?’ And we say, ‘We don’t have one.'”

Potawatomi Bingo Casino is the largest tribal casino in the U.S. without a hotel, Goodrich said. ButiIn a few years, that will change.

On Tuesday the tribe and casino announced plans to build a 20-story, 382-room “four-star” hotel next to the casino, located in the Menomonee Valley in Milwaukee. The hotel will also have a full-service casual restaurant, a full-service spa, a sky lounge, bar and deck and additional parking.

BizTimes Milwaukee first reported in September that the tribe was working on plans for a hotel development next to the casino.

With 382 rooms the hotel will be a major addition to the city’s hotel lineup. In size it will be between the 481-room Hyatt Regency hotel downtown and the 307-room Pfister Hotel downtown.

The building will tower over the rest of the low-rise Menomonee Valley. At 20 stories tall the hotel’s height will be similar to the 21-story Pfister Hotel tower.

The hotel will be built on a vacant lot southwest of West Canal Street and 16th Street. The site was previously occupied by Badger Railing before it moved to a new building near Miller Park. The former Badger Railing building has been demolished and the site is vacant.

The hotel will be independently owned and operated by the tribe and will not be affiliated with a hotel chain flag.

The cost for the project is about $150 million. James A. Crawford Jr., vice chairman for the tribe, said some of the project’s cost will be financed. Details of the financing for the project have not been finalized. However, the tribe is confident it will line up financing in time to begin construction in late spring or early summer. It will take about two years to build the hotel.

The tribe also recently submitted plans with the city to begin the approval process for the project.

Greenfire Management Services, the construction management firm of Potawatomi Busienss Development Corp. (the tribe’s economic diversification arm) will serve as the hotel development’s project manager. Minneapolis-based Cunningham Group is the architect for the project.

The Potawatomi hotel will join three other new hotels that are under construction in downtown Milwaukee. Jackson Street Management LLC will build a 200-room Marriott hotel southwest of Wisconsin Avenue and Milwaukee Street. Rosemont, Ill.-based First Hospitality Group Inc. is converting the 125-year-old Loyalty Building at 611 N. Broadway into a 128-room Hilton Garden Inn hotel. Oregon, Wis.-based Gorman & Company is converting the adjoining Brew House and Mill House buildings at the former Pabst brewery complex into a 90-room boutique hotel.

Potawatomi officials say that “independent economic analysts” have indicated that 90 percent of the guests that stay at the casino hotel will be new overnight stays in the city of Milwaukee, and will not come at the expense of existing hotels in the city. The hotel will be targeted to leisure travelers who are casino patrons, not business travelers or convention attendees, Goodrich said.

“It will primarily be an amenity for our existing (casino) guests,” he said. “(The hotel will be) an amenity for the casino.”

The tribe says the casino attracts 6 million visitors a year and is the top visitor’s destination in the state. The facility opened in 1991 and was expanded in 2000 and 2008. The casino now has 780,000 square feet of space.

The hotel project will create 230 permanent jobs. Currently 2,500 people work at the casino, tribal officials said. About 1,000 construction jobs will be created to build the hotel, they said.

The tribe said the hotel will generate $10 million in additional revenue annually for the city, county, Visit Milwaukee and the state in property, sales, exposition and income taxes.

Government leaders hailed the project and the charitable contributions the tribe has made in the community.

“This (hotel) will just add another reason for visitors to come to our community,” said Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.

“All (the hotel) is going to do is allow (the tribe) to bring a lot more people into the economy, create more jobs, and give more back,” said Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele.

“This project will be a major asset to this community and will bring great value to the city,” said Common Council President Willie Hines.

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