City Council reacts favorably to hotel plans

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

For the past eight months, Rex Nelson has been working behind the scenes to put together a plan for renovating McCook's historic Keystone Hotel. Now -- because of the possible need to have the City of McCook as a co-applicant -- Nelson has gone public.

The reaction from both the City Council and the public has been very positive, says Nelson, who is the executive director of the McCook Economic Development Corp.

For years, the people of the McCook area have wondered if the seven-level hotel (basement plus six floors) could ever again enjoy its pre-World War II prominence. The structure, which towers over surrounding buildings in the downtown business district, had faded in popularity due to the tiny, antiquated elevator and the emergence of modern, convenient motels.

Still, even though the hotel was out-dated, some, including Nelson, saw its potential because of the central location and the large amount of space the building contains.

Working with the Keystone's current owner, Dale and Joan Stewart of the Chief Motel and Country Kitchen, Nelson has drafted a plan for possible funding by the Economic Development Agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce. He is also working closely with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which offers several programs for rural development.

The U.S. agencies' interest is understandable. If successful, the Keystone update could be a model project for rural communities. As envisioned by Nelson, the plan calls for banquet, kitchen and retail facilities on the first floor, executive suites and offices on the second and third floor and business incubator space (for beginning businesses) on the fourth floor. There's also space for residential units on the fifth and sixth floors. "We have had interest expressed by people wanting to buy condos," Nelson said, "but so far we don't have a developer committed to the project."

If you know of an investor with an interest in such a project, have them get in touch with Nelson. Action is needed soon, as the final pieces of the Keystone project are now being put in place. Other major announcements are imminent, including the strong potential for an anchor tenant for the $2.5 million project.

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