La Crosse, Wis. (WXOW) - Downtown La Crosse is about to get a new attraction, and it's unlike any other.
It's a boutique hotel that is the newest project of Don Weber, the Founder and CEO of Logistics Health Incorporated of La Crosse.
He describes himself as someone always looking for the next challenge. Projects that attract his interest are those that will benefit the La Crosse community and those who live here. Its a community that he says has given him much more than he can ever repay.
After building Logistics Health in La Crosse into one of the city's largest employers, Weber has discovered another passion-turning a hundred year old building into a unique new hotel. Weber sees it as a way for him to pay tribute to the history of the city. "Nathan Myrick built the first building in La Crosse," said Weber. "A little log building right here. We're sitting right where he built that."
The Charmant Hotel; French for charming, will occupy the former Ross Furniture building on State Street downtown. TheWeber's' bought it for $1.5 million, and will spend another $23 million on renovations.
"See this? These are all hardwood maple. These floors, all these wood columns, all the brick", said Weber as he walks through the building, which dates back to 1898 when it was the Funke Candy Company.
While the factory closed in 1933, the hotel will incorporate some of its history. "It's a boutique hotel. Every room is different. The sizes are a little different," Weber said. "Because you have to configure it according to the old building, the historic building."
The hotel represents Don Weber's enduring vision for La Crosse. A project that will bring jobs, enrich the community and attract more people to see what the city has to offer. But despite all Weber has done for La Crosse, he still believes he owes the city a debt. "I owe. That's how I feel about it. I really have been blessed in so many ways. Probably more fortunate than I deserve to be. Nothing comes easy. If you truly believe in something, you become passionate about it. Its hard to stop."
The director of the La Crosse Convention and Visitors Bureau says the hotel will fill a need downtown. Dave Clements said, "It fills another niche that we don't have. With the variety of properties that we currently have from long term stays to full service hotels, the boutique hotel is an aspect we do not have."
Don Weber realizes the hotel project represents a risk. But much more than failure, he fears the tragedy of potential unfulfilled. "I never want to go to my grave going, 'Geez, what if we...' Now that this is coming along, I want to see it finished. It's going to mean so much, I think, to this whole community and to La Crosse."
The next phase of Weber's never ending debt repayment to La Crosse is set to open in the Spring of 2015. The opening date of next spring was pushed back from this coming fall so the developers could file the necessary paperwork to earn designation on the national historic registry; a move that offered tax advantages.
The 71 room hotel will provide 120 jobs. And incidentally, Weber's other business venture, Logistics Health, currently has 1700 employees.
The developer of the new hotel is the same one that developed the Iron Horse Hotel in Downtown Milwaukee. It's a 100 room boutique hotel that occupies a 100 year old building that was a former warehouse.
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