Graves gets nod to build MSP hotel; hopes to open by Super Bowl

The hotel company owned by entrepreneur and one-time congressional candidate Jim Graves has been chosen to build a new hotel at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

A Metropolitan Airports Commission panel chose Graves on Monday from among three bidders. The full airport commission is expected to approve the selection March 17. Graves said he hopes to open the 250-room hotel in time for the 2018 Super Bowl.

Graves, who ran for Congress in 2012 but lost to Rep. Michele Bachmann, is best known for founding the AmericInn budget hotel chain and building the luxury Graves 601 hotel in downtown Minneapolis. His company also manages hotels in St. Paul and restaurants in the region.

The new lodging will offer a unique experience to travelers, including an indoor connection to the airport, Graves said.

"It's important to have a seamless experience for our guest, that comes to the airport — especially if they're obviously doing carry-on — that can immediately go onto the concourses and directly access the hotel, without having to provide any on-premises kind of transportation."

Graves said plans call for a luxury, boutique hotel with a distinct identity. But he didn't offer much more detail, such as the exact number of guest rooms or the meeting facilities it could offer, or what it would cost.

He said he was in talks with an unnamed chain to brand the new hotel. He also said the hotel itself would be outside airport security so that it could host non-ticketed guests.

The plan calls for the hotel to be built southeast of the huge parking ramps in front of the airport's main terminal. It would be on land where the old Northwest Airlines Building B once stood. Initial plans would have a skyway leading to a separate security gate at Concourse C and parking in an existing ramp that's not fully used.

The commission has been skeptical of hotel projects in the past, Metropolitan Airports Commission Chairman Dan Boivin said.

"A lot of the other airports around the country, if you dig down into the details the airport hotels are not very profitable, don't really work out and have to be subsidized by the airport," he said. "We were just not interested in doing that for the longest time. But we know it's an amenity, whether it's a weather issue, or someone coming in here and having meetings."

Leasing the land, instead of owning a hotel, would help shift that financial risk to a developer and away from flyers that don't use the hotel, Boivin added.

The deal will also require approval from the FAA and a long-term ground lease for the real estate under the hotel.

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