Construction stalls at Medina hotel but expected to restart soon

Photo by Tom Rivers: The Cobblestone Suites hotel on Maple Ridge Road was scheduled to open in March. But most of the construction work ceased since just before Christmas. Work is expected to restart soon with the hotel to open likely in the summer.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 13 February 2020 at 9:13 am

MEDINA – Contractors were a steady presence on Maple Ridge Road last summer and fall, building a 39,000-square-foot hotel with 58 rooms.

The project was about 80 percent complete until construction largely stopped just before Christmas when the builder wasn’t getting paid.

A financing holdup is expected to soon be resolved with construction to resume and the hotel likely to open in the summer.

The Small Business Administration approved a loan for the project last March, but then changed its rules in June or July, unbeknownst to the developer or Generations Bank, which is providing $7.3 million in loans for the project, said Andina Barone, a spokeswoman for the Orleans Economic Development Agency.

The Generations Bank money is contingent on the SBA loan. With the SBA financing held up that has also put the brakes on the Generations funding, Barone said.

The SBA changed its policy for loaning to franchises with management contracts. Cobblestone Suites is owned by the Medina Hospitality Group, which is headed by Todd “Booka” Hanes of St. Mary’s, Pa.

He contracts with WHG Companies to manage the hotel. Brian Wogernesem, President/CEO of Cobblestone Suites, also owns WHG.

Cobblestone Suites has 125 hotels in small towns in several states, with another 75 projects in development. The company’s hotels range in size from 31 to 73 rooms, with 45 the average size, Wogernesem said on May 16 during a ribbon-cutting celebration in Medina. This is Cobblestone’s first project in New York.

Cobblestone Suites is Orleans County’s first branded hotel. The Orleans EDA worked for about five years to bring the project to the community, seeing the hotel as a way to boost tourism revenue and keep visitors in the county longer, which would help local businesses.

“Everyone at the IDA, the board, the developers and the brand knocked themselves out to bring Cobblestone to Orleans County and New York,” Barone said. “It’s unfortunate the developers have encountered so many obstacles doing business in New York State.”

Cobblestone Suites has carved a niche with a “mid-scale product” that isn’t an economy hotel or a “mom and pop” operation, Wogernesem said.

The hotels in the small towns have a corporate base with local businesses, family events (weddings and funerals), and tourists. The big hotel chains don’t operate in small towns, he said.

The SBA on Jan. 23 agreed to give Cobblestone Suites an exemption on the financing policy, Barone said. The loan signing hasn’t taken place yet for the $1.9 million from the SBA.

“We expect a closing date soon,” Hanes said. “We’ll have a better idea of a completion schedule for the hotel after we see the revised construction schedule being submitting this week in order to set the loan closing. The hotel is 80 percent complete.”

Cobblestone Suites works with BriMark Builders from Wisconsin. That company filed liens on Oct. 28 and Nov. 25 against the project for nearly $2.9 million for the costs of materials, furnishings and labor.

“What is on paper has more to do with the delay in the SBA loan, not acrimony,” Hanes said. “The financing through Generations Bank was contingent upon the SBA loan, so all the financing has been held up as a result – and the project is 80 percent complete. This has not been an easy situation, but we have had a longstanding and productive relationship with everyone BriMark and have no reason to believe that will not continue.”

He said the legal filing with the liens was “a necessary precaution for everyone involved – Medina Hospitality and BriMark.”

Hanes said Medina Hospitality and BriMark are “working together in the best interest of the project.”

He is optimistic the hotel will be a popular venue once it opens.

“I’m on Cobblestone’s advisory board and immediately knew this hotel will be a great fit for Orleans County,” he said. “We love the area and can’t wait to be a part of the community.”

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