Groundbreaking has occurred on a project that will bring a new hotel  and apartments to downtown Owatonna, renovate an historic restaurant, move a current bagel shop and change the look of the streets. Several current buildings will be demolished. Downtown roads will be affected on a rolling basis.

Owatonna Area Chamber of Commerce and Tourism (OACCT) president Brad Meier said, "A big transformation for downtown...huge projects all at the same time. You've got the city doing the streetscape, hotel project - a Marriott Courtyard, restaurant renovation in the former Jerry's (Supper Club) building. That will be a renovation, not a tear down. And then you've got an apartment building going up right across the street on Pearl."

"It's one of the biggest investments in downtown that we've seen in decades."

Meier laid out the timetable, "Everything's going to start in June. You'll see some buildings coming down. The Flooring Frenzy building. The building behind it. Those are going to be torn down for the hotel."

"You'll see roads starting to get torn up in the next two weeks," Meier added. That will start with the 300 block on Cedar and moving toward Central Park as that project progresses. Access will remain to businesses.

The hotel project will last about a year. The streetscape project should be done before the end of the year.

Thursday's groundbreaking was followed by the first Downtown Thursday function of the year, "You've got the vendors on North Cedar, some food vendors around Central Park. There will be music in Central Park...I think everyone's excited to get outside, be around people and have a little fun."

Downtown Thursday will also be held the first Thursday of July and August.

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