City of Oconomowoc - Plans to convert Olympia Resort in Oconomowoc into a senior living facility are off the table, owner Rick Eckert announced late Tuesday. The announcement pleased city planner Robert Duffy, who said the property is needed as a resort hotel for local tourism.
"We will remain a resort for the next 40 years," Eckert said in a telephone interview.
Eckert said he had considered converting the 256-room resort hotel at 1350 Royale Mile Road into 138 efficiency and one-bedroom apartment units for those who were 55 and older.
City officials last month had given initial approval to the housing plan but requested additional details about the conversion.
What brought on the change of heart was Eckert's realization that the senior living business has become saturated, especially with the new housing development at Shorehaven, a senior housing facility in Oconomowoc, he said.
"Everybody got into that boom," he said. "It's a saturated thing now."
Eckert has experience converting hotels into senior living. The plan at Olympia Resort followed a template Eckert used a number of years ago to convert a hotel into senior living in Toledo, Ohio. That facility has been successful, Eckert told the common council earlier this month.
Eckert also attributed his attempt to repurpose the resort to the two-year reconstruction of Highway 67, a major thoroughfare to the resort.
"We didn't have a road in front to use, and we were losing business," he said. "We panicked."
The resort's future likely includes a change of ownership, Eckert said. He said he has a buyer lined up for Olympia, but the sale is dependent on a commitment to keeping the property a resort.
"I'm nearly 70," Eckert said. "I've owned the resort for more than 18 years. I'm ready to retire to Florida and travel."
Oconomowoc economic development director Robert Duffy said he is happy to see the hotel stay because it provides more amenities than other hotels in the area.
“We would have had to look at how do we continue to do some of the tourism promotion that we do as a city with a reduction in that because obviously, Olympia has the convention facilities, the meeting space facilities here to support that," he said. "The rest of what we have is primarily hotel rooms for business visitors.”
The plan for the senior living facility, which was to be called Genesis Villages at Olympia, was approved by the city's plan commission in early November. Later that month, the common council voted to send it back to the commission in order to get more information about the plan. Aldermen said they would support the conversion if more information was provided.
Eckert had proposed selling lots at the 26-acre property to commercial developers to build retail buildings near the complex to meet the demand of an influx of full-time residents in that area of the city.
Duffy said it is possible that the questions from city officials made Eckert question the feasibility of converting the space into senior living. Aldermen at the last council meeting questioned the plan because they worried construction would be done on a room-by-room basis as people signed up for rooms. The aldermen expressed the desire to the conversion done all at once.
“I think that in the end, when the council and the plan commissioners started asking questions, like what are some of the details, how is the transition going to happen, it probably made them stop and ask, 'How is that going to happen?'" Duffy said. "Our role is really to make the land use fit into the community through a review process.”