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Downtown hotels handled flood differently

DoubleTree kept operating, Cooper's Mill shut down temporarily

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CEDAR RAPIDS — Faced with potential flooding from a rapidly rising Cedar River, two Cedar Rapids hotels took decidedly different paths.

The DoubleTree Hotel by Hilton along First Avenue NE in downtown Cedar Rapids, owned by the city, continued to operate with about 40 occupied rooms and 25 employees.

Matt Felling, general manager of the Doubletree, the U.S. Cellular Center and the convention center, said the 275-room hotel closed off all its reservation channels and contacted meeting planners to reschedule the events.

But the hotel “was fully operational during all of this,” Felling said. “With guest and team member safety in mind, we contacted all of our existing guests by phone, email and a letter about what was happening in the city. A letter was delivered to each occupied room, giving them the opportunity to relocate from the area.

“Some chose to stay, and we were able to stay fully operational for those guests that needed to be in the area to take care of their business. We had an evacuation in place for these guests and my employees to keep the hotel operating at a minimum level.”

The DoubleTree, which received no water damage this week, began ramping back up Wednesday, with limited operations Thursday and Friday and normal operations by Saturday, Felling said.

“We anticipate being full by this weekend with events that are going on within the hotel,” he said.

The former Crowne Plaza Five Seasons Hotel, which was extensively rebuilt and reopened in 2013 as the DoubleTree, was not damaged by the 2008 flood. The lobby was located on the second floor of the building.

Across the river at the Best Western Cooper’s Mill, it was a different story for Doug DeLong, CEO of the Longbranch Inc., which also owns the Best Western Longbranch on Twixt Town Road in NE Cedar Rapids.

The privately owned Cooper’s Mill, at 100 F Ave. NW, evacuated about 60 guests at noon this past Saturday.

“The restaurant closed on Friday night (Sept. 23), and we took all the food out,” DeLong said. “We tried to give it way to charitable organizations — whatever they could take.

“We asked our guests to be out by noon Saturday as a precaution because we didn’t want anyone to be stuck there in case the worst happened like last time. We had 60 rooms rented Saturday and we were booked for all 82 rooms on Sunday, so I guess we will take that loss.”

The 82-room hotel, restaurant and bar sustained significant damage in the 2008 flood.

While the river did not reach the hotel this time, DeLong is awaiting word from the city as to when he can return and resume business. He then will see if there was damage from sewer backup.

He said all the hotel’s computers and related equipment, which were moved to the second floor, will need to be reconnected.

“There are tons of things that need to be done from a management perspective before we can reopen the hotel,” he said. “I presume that the Linn County Public Health wants to come by the bar and restaurant, but the rest of the hotel won’t be that big of a deal.”

DeLong shut down the power on Saturday. Failing do so in 2008 “burned up all the air-conditioners and transformers on the floors,” he said. “That’s why we took everything out of the refrigerators and shut the power off.”

While saying he’s had some sleepless nights, DeLong praised the city’s work to minimize the impact of this week’s flood.

“There was some confusion is terms of flood crest forecasts, but I realize it’s a very complex thing,” he said. “This came as a complete shock because it’s normally something you expect to happen in the spring.”

For all of The Gazette's Flood 2016 coverage, please visit our flood coverage center.

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