Monday, May 6, 2013

Let the Revitalizing Begin!

Now that we have cut the ribbon and opened the rooms, it's time for the new Best Western Premier Waterfront Hotel to do what many have predicted it would do, and lead the revitalization of downtown Oshkosh.  With a modern hotel attached to it, the Convention Center is now supposed to bring hundreds of people downtown on a regular basis--people looking to spend their money.  But will it be the quaint and quirky shops--and the college bars currently down there that get that cash?

When they are on the road, people look for a bit of familiarity in whatever city they are in.  Perkins, IHOP, and Dennys are standbys for breakfast.  A quick, cheap burger or tacos are always popular for a quick meal option--and people look for McDonald's, Burger King and Taco Bell signs near their hotel.  Not in the mood to leave the room (and not interested in paying the outrageous prices for room service)?  Dominos and Papa Johns make pizzas here in Oshkosh just the same as they do in your hometown.  Are those going to be some of the new businesses that sprout up around the hotel?  And where would they locate?

Another thing people look for on the road is a place to pick up necessities.  Toiletries, personal items, clothing, and medications are always forgotten or run out--and people like to be able to buy those at any time--and on any day.  I'd be hard pressed to give you the name of a store in the downtown area that stocks stuff like that (and no, the average guest is NOT going to Dollar General) and is open late.  A Walgreens would fit the bill for nearly all of those items--do they buy back Opera House Square?  Or would CVS like to fight another two year battle with the City Council?

And if the hotel is truly successful, that will breed competition--as other hoteliers and chains look to get in on some of that action as well.  (They should probably keep in mind that they won't have the built-in advantage of UW Oshkosh sending all of its guests to them--or the Convention and Visitors Bureau recommending convention guests stay there)  RB Hospitality did the same thing in downtown Appleton, choosing to offer a more upscale experience and building the Copperleaf Hotel near the Paper Valley.  A cheaper alternative would probably work better in Oshkosh--so where would you put a Days Inn or a Super 8? 

My recommendation would be in that blighted area east of the Leach Amphitheater.  It would provide a much better-looking alternative to those peering out their windows on the upper floors of the Best Western rooms that don't face the riverl.  Although, not many hotel guests would appreciate trains running right next to their rooms--so that spot may not work either.  The old Pioneer site is probably too valuable--as is the rest of the riverfront property on the south shore for a lower-scale hotel location.

Some of you are probably pointing out that Oshkosh already offers nearly all of the dining, shopping and lodging options that I listed above.  And with everybody comfortable with using the GPS units in their vehicles or the smartphones, our downtown event and convention guests would be more willing to travel to find them.  And while that represents more dollars spent in Oshkosh, that really doesn't help in the revitalization of the downtown does it?

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