Opening for hotel across from Kinnick Stadium pushed back to April 2021

Courtyard by Marriott's rooftop restaurant converted to event space

A five-story, 140-room Courtyard by Marriott began construction June 6, 2019, at 901 Melrose Ave. in University Heights.
A five-story, 140-room Courtyard by Marriott began construction June 6, 2019, at 901 Melrose Ave. in University Heights. The city’s first hotel initially was slated to open in August 2020, but that since has been pushed back to April 2021. (Courtesy of Rohrbach Associates)

UNIVERSITY HEIGHTS — Construction began in June 2019 on a five-story, 140-room Courtyard by Marriott at 901 Melrose Ave. in University Heights.

Amenities at the time included a Starbucks on the first floor and rooftop restaurant with views of Kinnick Stadium, which is across the street.

It was expected to open in early August 2020, just in time for Hawkeye football season.

It’s the first hotel to be built in University Heights, the small Johnson County enclave surrounded by Iowa City. In 2017, the city approved a 7 percent hotel-motel tax.

What’s happened since

The hotel now is expected to be complete in April 2021.

“We would love to be open earlier than that,” said Michelle Curtis, assistant general manager at Hawk Hospitality. “We are pushing hard to be open earlier than that, but that may be just what it is.”

Along with the “normal construction kind of headaches you deal with” causing delays, Curtis said the Aug. 10 derecho also slowed progress.

“We had a lot of our subcontractors leave our site to go help people who were definitely more in need in the Cedar Rapids area,” Curtis said. “The hotel can wait. These people were in serious need of help. So that put us back a little bit.”

She said the construction company has been doing a “great job,” and she can now “see the light at the end of the tunnel.”

When the hotel does open, some of the amenities will be different.

The hotel’s partner for the rooftop restaurant, Graze Steak and Seafood, backed out about a month ago, Curtis said.

“I think the financing was a little bit of an issue,” Curtis said. “Going into a restaurant with that large of a space during this time is just a very risky thing.”

Instead, it will be an event space. Curtis said it can hold weddings of up to 350 to 400 attendees. Instead of a restaurant kitchen, it has a banquet kitchen.

Curtis said the hotel also likely will have Sunday brunch and Saturday tailgate events in the space, which will be called The Heights.

The rooftop area has a clear view of the Kinnick scoreboard and some of the seats, Curtis said, but it does not have a field view.

The first floor will include Courtyard’s Bistro restaurant with a Starbucks inside. It is expected to have a “pretty large” bar along with a large courtyard with fire pits and big-screen TVs.

“It’s not the typical Courtyard bar setup,” Curtis said.

Comments: (319) 398-8394;

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.