The Elkhorn Plan Commission approved a plan to develop a hotel and a convenience store with restaurants right off Interstate 43.

The plan to build an 83-room Holiday Inn Express and Suites and a Love’s Travel Stop and Country Store will likely go to the city council Monday after the commission approved it last week, Mayor Howie Reynolds said Wednesday.

The plan would develop vacant land between I-43, South Lincoln Street and O’Conner Drive, which is part of the city’s only standing tax increment financing district, according to city documents.

Love’s, which plans shared with the city say would take up 14.5 acres, would include:

  • gas sales, including diesel and compressed natural gas
  • heavy tire repair, vehicle maintenance and light roadside mechanical services
  • food franchises, with a Hardee’s and Chester’s Chicken currently proposed and
  • retail items, including snacks, convenience foods, travel-related merchandise and electronics.

Love’s has more than 430 locations in 41 states, including six already in Wisconsin, according to a letter from Mark Meyer of E&M Strategic Development, the developer of the plan. Love’s is independently owned and headquartered in Oklahoma.

Love’s is paying $2.5 million for its land, Reynolds said.

The hotel would be built on a 2.7-acre tract near the southwest corner of the parcel. E&M would own the franchise and develop the hotel, Meyer wrote, though First Hospitality Group would handle the day-to-day operations.

The property in total has 29 acres for development and 14.1 acres that are not, according to the documents. The latter portion would have some green space for limited community access.

Some trees would have to be removed to improve visibility and usability of the site.

The remaining developable acreage has yet to identify users, but Meyer’s letter calls for a dine-in restaurant like Cheddar’s, Chili’s, Buffalo Wild Wings, Portillo’s, “or many other franchise restaurant concepts that cater to the lunch and dinner customer.”

“It is anticipated that this restaurant will seek some level of alcohol license,” Meyer wrote Nov. 15.

On a 1.51-acre parcel next to the proposed hotel, developers could work on “some sort of open air pavilion, facility garage and restrooms,” on a site that could host outdoor events, Meyer wrote.

Reynolds was excited at the prospect of new development because it would bring in “so much tax value.” He said people had been clamoring for a new restaurant, too.

Meyer also outlined how it would improve Elkhorn.

“The project will provide increased employment opportunities, bring more travelers and guests to the Elkhorn area, enhance the image of Elkhorn by having new development within its borders, and provide well recognized and highly regarded businesses to its community,” Meyer wrote.

Construction on the Love’s project would start in spring or summer 2018 and is expected to be done in 2019. The hotel portion would start in April 2018 and is preliminarily scheduled to wrap up by March 2019.

Monday’s city council meeting will start at 5:30 p.m.

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