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Hotel getting a makeover

Construction equipment parked in front of the former Ramada hotel location in Marshall hints at the work going on inside the building. Bird Dog Equity Partners, which bought the hotel at auction last year, plans to renovate the building as part of a long-term investment strategy.

MARSHALL — The hotel has operated under different brands and owners in its history. But the new owners of the former Ramada location in Marshall say they’re here for the long run.

One step in their plan is to give the 100-room facility a makeover, Kyle Schock said.

“We had Marshall on our radar screen for quite a long time,” said Schock, partner at Bird Dog Equity Partners, which bought the hotel late last year. The former Ramada property, located on College Drive near Minnesota Highway 23, presented a good opportunity, he said. “It’s a great structure and a great location.”

Over the past few months, the hotel, now named the EverSpring Inn & Suites, has been accommodating both guests and construction, as groups of rooms and common areas like the main lobby are gutted and updated. Renovations are expected to take most of 2021 to complete, Bird Dog Equity Partners said.

“We’re excited for it,” said Caitlyn Sanow, interim general manager of the EverSpring location in Marshall. “It’s going to be a whole new facelift.” Construction in the hotel lobby started in mid-March, and one out of three total wings of guest rooms is currently closed while new carpets, fixtures and other updates are added, she said.

“Our overall plans are really to bring it up a scale or two,” as well as adding some new features, like a market pantry that guests can buy items from, Schock said. He said another development planned for the EverSpring Inn & Suites is a new restaurant concept, that he said would be ready to unveil later this spring.

In December, Sioux Falls-based Bird Dog Equity Partners announced it had bought the former Ramada, and would be operating the hotel as EverSpring Inn & Suites. The Marshall location is the third hotel under the EverSpring brand, joining hotels in Bismarck, N.D., and Oskaloosa, Iowa. EverSpring is Bird Dog Equity’s own mid-scale hotel brand, which gives the owners more flexibility than a chain hotel franchise, Schock said.

Including the Marshall location, Bird Dog Equity owns and manages a total of 11 hotels in Minnesota, North Dakota, Iowa and Nebraska.

Schock said Bird Dog Equity has focused on development opportunities in small to mid-size communities that might otherwise be going overlooked. The group of investors has a “buy and hold” strategy, which means having long-term partnerships with those communities, he said. “We think that makes us unique.”

“We feel very fortunate that Bird Dog Equity has taken on this project and are investing in the updates needed to respond to our community’s needs,” said Marshall EDA Director Lauren Deutz. It’s also a positive that Bird Dog Equity plans to keep long-term ownership of the hotel property, she said.

The hotel had gone into receivership back in 2018, although it didn’t close down. Deutz said the Marshall EDA had been working to reach out to hoteliers who had shown interest in Marshall, before the Ramada property went up for auction. However, she said the EDA’s role had been limited to providing information about the property and the Marshall community.

“The unfortunate thing about the auction process is that the EDA and the city don’t get to take as active of a role in the sale process and discussion with developers. We just need to be responsive when information and data is requested,” Deutz said.

EverSpring Inn & Suites opened during a difficult time for the hospitality industry, as the COVID-19 pandemic cut back on sporting events and travel. Marshall wasn’t immune to the effects of the pandemic, Deutz said.

“Our lodging tax numbers were down more than 30% for 2020, with a lot of that coming from reduced business travel and cancellations in youth sporting events,” she said. “As restrictions shift and construction season begins, we are hopeful that occupancy will continue trending upwards in the coming months.”

Marshall did have one hotel close down in 2020. The Super 8 went into voluntary foreclosure at the end of last year, Deutz said. While COVID wasn’t the sole reason the business was struggling, it was a factor, she said.

Deutz said the Super 8 property is currently owned by a bank, and the EDA has been working with the bank and management company on showing the property to developers. Offers have started coming in for a resale of the property, she said.

Schock and Sanow said there have been challenges facing EverSpring from factors like the pandemic.

“We definitely had those discussions,” Schock said.

“I don’t think there’s been a single industry that hasn’t been touched” by the pandemic, Sanow said. But at the same time, there were opportunities to plan for the future, and she and Schock said having lower occupancy for a time can provide a chance to get renovations done. Schock said Bird Dog Equity is taking the long view on the Marshall hotel location, and he thought travel and social gatherings would come back in the future.

Sanow said she was glad to see Bird Dog Equity buy the Ramada property and renovate it.

“It’s almost like a landmark here in Marshall,” she said.

Schock said it has been good to see the pride that Marshall residents have in their town. “It’s been so much fun to see the community get excited about this,” he said.

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