Posted: February 6, 2014 Former Ramada is emptied, and ready for remodeling
The rooms have been emptied at the former Ramada Hotel. Owners have an aggressive schedule, with the plan of having the newly remodeled and redesigned hotel open by the end of the year.
Work is moving fast at the former Ramada Hotel. Just days after the announcement of the purchase on January 15th, rooms were beginning to be emptied of their furnishings. And now, about two weeks later, the entire building is cleared out.
"We've got a lot going on. We're doing lots of inspections of the building to get a grasp on the mechanical equipment, the masonry, and are moving aggressively to work with Market and Johnson to completely understand all of our options," said Zach Halmstad, leader of Pablo Properties, the entity that purchased the hotel.
Just after the announcement, furnishings were given to local families and local charities. And Halmstad said they're recycling all of the ceiling tiles and carpeting.
The remaining contents are being moved to the convention center "so we can get a good inventory," Halmstad said. "People will see Market and Johnson trucks showing up with dumpsters. We hope to keep the distraction to the downtown area at an absolute minimum."
The 123-room hotel, which has been vacant since its closing at the end of November, will be completely remodeled and reopened by the end of the year. Plans include reducing the number of rooms to between 80 and 90, making room for suites and long-term stay rooms. The convention center will be renovated, and there will be a coffee shop and a new restaurant.
"We have plans to redesign the entire first floor and house a restaurant that focuses on great, locally-sourced food," Halmstad said.
An Eau Claire North grad, and UW-Eau Claire alum, Halmstad, along with partner Chip Pearson, founded JAMF Software in Eau Claire. Pablo Properties, which is focused on improving Eau Claire's downtown, is behind building a new four-story, 72,000 square foot, environmentally-friendly JAMF office near Phoenix Park. When complete in the fall, the office will be home to about 150 employees. Pablo Properties is also one of five investors of the Green Tree Inn that will be renovated and turned into a boutique hotel, beginning this spring.
Mike Schatz, Downtown Eau Claire, Inc. Executive Director, and Director of the City's Redevelopment Authority said Halmstad's positive impact on the community is significant.
"The purchase of the former Ramada Hotel by the Zach Halmstad-led Pablo Properties is a big win for downtown. Zach is committed to helping revitalize downtown and has the financial reserves to make the investments the hotel needs," said Schatz.
At a recent meeting of the Redevelopment Authority, which has the purpose of blight elimination and urban renewal, members praised Halmstad's work and determination.
Halmstad is devoted to bringing the hotel back to what he remembers it growing up; a thriving venue, and getting other areas on track to flourish as well.
"We have a rare opportunity right now to accelerate the redevelopment of the downtown area. RCU started the ball rolling over ten years ago, and the City followed suit with Phoenix Park," Halmstad said.
He said people can see the impact it's had with the restaurants, the apartment buildings, and the new JAMF building.
"If we all work together, we can have an amazing impact that will last generations on the other side of the river. We're doing everything that we can to prove that this is a financial model that works, and that it will continue to spur economic development."