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City Hall, motel nearing completion

City staff expects to move into the new City Hall at Maple and Lewis streets during April. Debbie Griffin photos1 / 2
Hotel owners say they expect the new Best Western at the corner of Main Street and Cascade Avenue to be finished and operational by July.2 / 2

"We'll be open in July," said developer representative and investor for Martinsen Land and Investments John Garden about the Best Western hotel his company is building at the corner of Main Street and Cascade Avenue.

He says the same for the 1,600-square foot Jimmy John's Gourmet Sandwich Shop set to open on the northwest corner of Cascade Avenue and Spruce Street.

Garden said last week that the hotel's elevator shafts are in and that crews were completing the roof and window installation. Garden said once the building is sealed, interior work begins.

He said Best Western's planners have been visiting with Sue Martinsen, who's handling the hotel's interior design work. Garden said though all the decisions haven't been made yet, he knows the bathrooms will have all-granite countertops.

Sealing the building also means that crews can start insulating it. Work on the exterior façade probably won't start until March.

He said cold weather and high winds have impeded progress.

"We've had a couple days where we couldn't get much done," said Garden.

The roof work stalled for about a week during the worst of January's subzero temperatures. He said other times crews used some temporary heaters to stay warm enough to work.

Garden said, "We're going to start hiring for the hotel and restaurant any minute."

He said for now, people interested can e-mail him at Soon the local hotel's Web site will be online, where people can download a job application.

Garden said the restaurant will be run by the same people who operate Explorer's Point Restaurant and Blue Heron Bar in Ashland and an as-yet unnamed restaurant near the Split Rock Lighthouse. He said menu plans for the River Falls restaurant are underway; Martinsen will soon hire a chef for it.

"We might have a name the restaurant contest down there," Garden said.

He said hotel owners decided not have a franchise restaurant as it first thought it would.

He said while he's still taking inquiries on the rest of the hotel's retail space, it's nearly full. Garden cannot reveal any of the new retailers because leases haven't been signed.

He said about overall progress, "We're in pretty good shape."

City Hall plans April move in

"They're planning to take occupancy in April," said Frisbie Architects Project Manager Mark Paschke about the new City Hall at Maple and Lewis streets.

He said workers plan to finish the exterior brick and window installation in the next two weeks. Façade work including stucco and stone happen after the brick is done.

Tile installers have started on the five bathroom floors. Builders have finished about 85% of the Sheetrock, 80% of the drywall, and about half the taping and sanding.

Crews have completed the HVAC rough-in work on both levels.

Paschke said the building has been mostly enclosed since December. Workers have been using heaters inside during extremely cold days.

Paschke said once the building is finished, some work will remain, such as landscaping, sidewalks and the finishing coats on the parking lots. They have the "base course," and it will probably be May before the second and final course is applied.

People might notice the slight lip on the parking lot, which the finishing course will fill.

Paschke explained the feature some have asked about: The top center of the building. It appears to some to be a third story but really is a vaulted ceiling.

People will see it on the second-level main entrance on the building's west side and just inside the lower-level entrance on the building's east side entrance. There, a stairwell ascends into the open area.

While brutal weather caused slight delays on a few exterior tasks, the project remains on schedule.

"We're within about six weeks," Paschke said about finishing the structure.

See this week's Journal for more photos.