GREEN BAY - Green Bay city leaders say they are frustrated with a downtown project that is taking longer than expected.The process of renovating the former Clarion Hotel is changing.This Friday, the hotel will close with the goal of reopening next August with millions of dollars in upgrades.Last July, Green Bay's city council picked which company it was going to sell the Clarion Hotel to, but a year later, the city still owns the property and is paying its bills."Oh yes, this has been a frustrating project," said Green Bay Mayor Jim Schmitt.The original plan called for the hotel to come off city books last fall. Now the closing date is set for mid-August.The plan to close for a year also goes against the original plan, which was to keep the hotel open while renovating it floor by floor."The occupancy isn't that great there now and when you add construction on top of it, we just all agreed that the best thing is just to close it and then have a grand opening in conjunction with KI," said Schmitt.The $23 million expansion of the KI Convention Center will connect to the hotel. Since construction started on that project late last year, hotel occupancy has dropped significantly."The whole area there is a construction zone," said Craig Bonter of American Hospitality Management, the group that is buying the hotel and has been running it for the city. "It's very noisy. It's very dusty. It's inconvenient. There's not enough parking."Alderman Joe Moore says he is fine with the company and city's change of plans to close during renovations. However, he isn't happy the city keeps putting money into the property."Now we're nearly at a half a million dollars and that's getting a little frustrating that it's become a money pit that the city owns and has no return on its investment at this time," said Moore.If plans don't change again, the hotel and convention center expansion are slated to be complete by August of next year.American Hospitality is buying the hotel for $2.7 million. The company plans to spend $5.3 million on renovations.
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