Mitesh "Mit" Shah confirmed last week that he's bought the Riverview Hotel & Suites, 100 Spring St. in River Falls, and plans to make improvements during the next two or three months.
He said, "This property will be a Best Western Plus."
Shah explained that he'll make certain improvements to the hotel so that it qualifies for the franchise status. He said the upgrades consist of an expanded hot breakfast for guests, bigger TVs, upgraded bedding, a better cleaning program, and required signage, as well as more small amenities in the rooms.
He said all items are "high quality" and must comply with Best Western standards.
Shah, who's been in the hotel business for 12 years, said he saw a nice hotel in a good location. He adds that people seem to enjoy participating in the reward and points programs of a franchise.
The hotelier recognizes the development's unique character and acknowledges that River Falls has invested a lot of money into the site.
Shah also owns a Comfort Inn and Suites in Black River Falls, and used to own a Best Western in Chaska, Minn. He sold the latter in December and had been looking to "start again" when he learned of the local hotel.
"It's a beautiful product and a beautiful property," he said about the River Falls location, adding that it's convenient to the university campus.
He plans to move to River Falls with his family as soon as his kids get out of school. Shah named his hotel-owning company, Mahi, LLC, after his young daughter.
The new owner says he bought the property from a bank after learning about it from a broker. Shah will continue leasing space to Anytime Fitness and to Junior's Bar and Restaurant, anticipating no changes. The Jimmy John's site adjacent to the hotel is independently owned.
Shah said he used to be an electrical engineer for General Motors but "got into" the hotel business after learning more about it from a friend who owned one.
"It's a challenging business, and you learn different things every day," he said.
City OKs deal
City Administrator Scot Simpson confirmed that a special closed session April 30 cinched the city's decision. The council agreed to alter the agreement made with River Falls in 2008 by the original developer, Martinsen Investment and Land.
The city agreed to provide $1 million in land and $1.5 million worth of infrastructure improvements. In return, Martinsen was to develop the hotel to a non-disputable assessed value of $10 million. That in turn would generate an annual tax payment to the city of $181,400 for a total of 20 years.
Central Bank had acquired the hotel through foreclosure, and as part of the property sale, the city had to approve a change in the developer's agreement, which transfers to any new owner.
Simpson's memorandum to the council said that many potential buyers of the hotel had checked into the property, and most had asked about the possibility of reducing the developer's portion of the financial commitment.
After the closed session, the city agreed to lower the non-disputable minimum assessed value of the property to $7 million and to lower the annual tax payments to $135,000 per year.
Simpson's memo says the hotel's new name will be Campus Inn and Suites.