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See inside: Hotel adjacent to Five Sullivan Brothers Convention Center opens to public
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See inside: Hotel adjacent to Five Sullivan Brothers Convention Center opens to public

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Outside the front entrance of the Best Western Plus Executive Residency Waterloo–Cedar Falls on Oct. 29, 2020.

WATERLOO — The hotel adjacent to the Five Sullivan Brothers Convention Center fully opened to the public Thursday after major renovations, signaling progress on a complex that is expected to grow the area’s economy.

The hotel at West Fourth and Commercial streets includes two brands combined into one name: The Best Western Plus Executive Residency Waterloo–Cedar Falls. The hotel includes standard rooms for short stays and larger suites for extended stays. The opening came after a $10 million, 10-month renovation.

The first 100 rooms, part of the Best Western Plus, opened to the public at the end of July. The other 71 rooms, part of the Executive Residency, opened in October. Tom Busch, regional development director for Best Western, said the two brands allow the hotel to reach two different markets.

The hotel was previously a Ramada owned by a Chicago developer. It was purchased by South Dakota hotel investor Makenda LLC. The company hired 40 contractors to complete renovations, including 35 locally, said Makenda vice president Rod Lindquist.

“We never second-guessed ourselves,” said Brian Kern, president and CEO of Makenda. “We were all-in from the start, and we couldn’t be happier.”

Busch said the adjacent convention center is “really the key” to the hotel’s success. Large events for sports, business or city activities drive demand for hotel rooms. He acknowledged the convention business will lag in the near future due to COVID-19 curbing travel.

“The town benefits from the having the hotel, but the hotel benefits by having the convention center,” Busch said. “They are together. They have to be together.”

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Mayor Quentin Hart said the final phase of renovations to the convention center should be complete by October 2021. It is currently in its second phase, which includes lobby renovations.

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Mayor Quentin Hart speaks about his excitement for the Best Western Plus Executive Residency Waterloo – Cedar Falls on Oct. 29, 2020, before the grand opening event. To his left is Brian Kern, President and CEO of Makenda Development, who was named Best Western's 2020 Developer of the Year.

The third and final phase will include a “face-lift” that involves installing a glass entrance on the northeast side of the building, doing room renovations and possibly creating a Sullivan Brothers memorial plaza outside. The city’s Board of Adjustment recently approved an expansion of the facility as part of the remodel. Busch said he expects “pent-up demand” from the pandemic will cause people to rent hotel rooms “in droves” when they feel more comfortable. He considers the Waterloo and Cedar Falls area a “strong secondary market” with its 100,000 residents.

“The urban centers are going to suffer for a variety of reasons,” Busch said. “There is demand here to get people back to where you want them to be, which is small-town America.”

Busch said the Ramada hotel was “in disrepair,” and should have been “condemned.” To be competitive in the lodging market, Lindquist said, it was necessary to take the Ramada “down to the bones” and rebuild it.

“We wouldn’t stay here,” Kern said. “We stayed at another hotel in town.”

The rooms have a modern look with natural brick walls, vinyl flooring and views of downtown Waterloo. Bathrooms include large showers, vanities and extra lighting on mirrors. The hotel offers WiFi for all guests.

Standard rooms have refrigerators and microwaves. Extended-stay rooms have dividers to separate bedroom space from full kitchens and living room areas. There are washers, dryers and desks included in the extended-stay rooms.

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