Developers of new hotel in Medina get big welcome from local officials

Photos by Tom Rivers: Brian Wogernese, President/CEO Cobblestone Suites, hugs Gabrielle Barone, vice president of business development for the Orleans Economic Development Agency. Barone worked the past five years to bring a hotel to Medina. Todd “Booka” Hanes, right, is a managing partner with the Medina Hospitality Group, which owns the hotel.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 17 May 2019 at 10:26 am

MEDINA – Cobblestone Suites and many local officials celebrated the impending construction of a new hotel in Medina on Thursday, with the new 58-room hotel expected to open in March 2020.

The hotel will be on Maple Ridge Road, on the east side of Pride Pak, in the Medina Business Park. Many Cobblestone Suites officials and investors of the project were in Medina to kick off construction on Thursday. The 5-acre site is too wet for construction to start right now, but work is expected to get going soon.

Paul Hendel, chairman of the Orleans EDA board of directors, leads a toast in welcoming the new hotel to Medina.

The company held a celebration at the Zambistro restaurant on Main Street. The Medina hotel is the first in New York for Cobblestone Suites, which is now in 26 states with a focus on small towns.

Brian Wogernesem President/CEO Cobblestone Suites, praised the Orleans Economic Development Agency for its tenacity in pursuing the project and helping the company find a location for the hotel. The Orleans EDA also commissioned a study in 2014 to see if the Medina market could sustain a branded hotel.

Interim Hospitality Consultants concluded that a small hotel would be profitable in the community.

The EDA used that report, as well as prime land, to help convince Cobblestone Suites to come to Medina.

“This is tremendous economic development, community development for Orleans County,” said Lynne Johnson, County Legislature chairwoman. “I want to thank all of you who have worked so hard to make this dream a reality.”

State Sen. Rob Ortt, R-North Tonawanda, said the $6.75 million in private investment shows confidence in Medina and Orleans County.

“That’s a sign the local economy is turning the corner and that people believe in Medina and Orleans County,” Ortt said during the celebration.

Small towns with their historic architecture and many small businesses are back in vogue, as people want the Norman Rockwell feel, Ortt said.

Gabrielle Barone, VP of business development at the Orleans EDA, shares how the local agency pursued the project the past five years.

Gabrielle Barone, vice president of business development for the Orleans EDA, worked hard to connect with Cobblestone Suites and keep the project on track. She attended many of the company’s conferences and went to the ribbon-cutting for a similar-size hotel in St. Mary’s, Pa. The investors in that project are leading the effort for the Medina hotel.

“It’s going to be good for tourism and the community,” Barone said about the project. “Right now that revenue is leaking out of the county.”

Visitors right now typically have to stay at hotels in Buffalo, Batavia – outside of Orleans. That limits many tourists to day trips. They will likely stay longer, and spend more money at local businesses once the new hotel is open.

Brian Wogernesem, President/CEO Cobblestone Suites (second from left), addresses the crowd for the hotel celebration. He was joined at the podium by State Sen. Rob Ortt and Assemblyman Michael Norris. The state legislators presented a citation, welcoming the company to Medina.

Wogernesem, the leader of Cobblestone Suites, 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.

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

The company now has 141 hotels open or under construction They range in size from 31 to 73 rooms, with 45 the average size, Wogernesem said.

Barone said the local officials and EDA pushed for a hotel that wouldn’t be a “cookie cutter.” Cobblestone Suites is building a three-story hotel will be 10,557 square feet. It will have meeting space for up to 50 people.

It will complement a conference center being developed on Main Street by the Zambito family, and the event space at the Bent’s Opera House, Barone said.

Courtesy of Cobblestone Suites: The 58-room hotel in Medina will look similar to this Cobblestone Suites hotel in Pennsylvania.

Wogernese has been working in the hotel industry since 1990, and started WHG Companies in 1999. WHG will manage the Medina hotel.

BriMark, which is based in the Neenah, Wisc., is the general contractor for the project, and is using local subcontractors. Art Hill Excavation of Medina, for example, is doing the site work.

The hotel will go on land where there was an abandoned house and overgrown yard. The EDA bought the land at a foreclosure auction in 2015, spending $50,000. The house was razed and the land was cleaned up.

Barone said the agency was fortunate the land became available. She shared she buried a small statue of Joseph, asking for a blessing that the right land would become available for the hotel. The frontage that initially was planned for the hotel went to Pride Pak instead. The hotel will be right next door to that vegetable packing house.

“I can’t say what part is tenacity, folklore or just plain luck,” Barone told the crowd. “We weren’t going to give up. We believed this was in the best interests of the community. We were going to do absolutely everything we had to do.”

A group of local and state officials, as well as investors and developers of the project, gather for a celebratory photo.

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