ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC)- The Kahler Grand, the Kahler Inn and Suites, the Marriott Rochester and the Residence Inn. Four hotels, all sold. Just like that, 75% of all the rooms for Mayo Clinic patients downtown, in a sudden state of flux.
The investors who put a stake in Rochester have been hard to decipher. That is, until now. The "Mystery Man" and the public face of the new deal.
Meet Javon Bea.
A self-made man who is no stranger to Rochester, moving from Illinois in the 1970s to attend the physical therapy program at Mayo Clinic. Back then, Rochester was not the bustling metro area that it is today.
"Rochester, at that time in 1973, was like just going to a nirvana compared to other cities I had been at," says Bea. "Rochester, at that time, was about 60,000 people, and the culture and the demeanor of people in Rochester was really second to none.
Which made his next decision even harder, to move to Janesville, Wisconsin in 1989, and take over as President and CEO of Mercy Hospital, then struggling to succeed. Years later, Mercy had become one of the fastest-growing hospital care systems in the U.S. But, Javon Bea and his wife Vita never severed their family ties to Rochester, their children all graduating from Lourdes High School. He says those family ties to our area came into play one day in 2012 when he received a phone call.
"I was approached by the major investors back some time last year asking that if they pursued purchase of the hotels would I be, since I was local, would I be willing to be a liaison between the management company and lend my expertise in helping the hotels in Rochester achieve a higher level of excellence."
He says he is a "sponsor" or the public face of the hotel deal, claiming to have only a one percent stake in the $230 million purchase. Bea has a mighty vision for the hotels, one that ties into Rochester's hot-button issue.
"I would like to see these properties to really help fulfill, from the hospitality standpoint, Mayo Clinic's mission of creating a Destination, they call it medical center, and I think the community of Rochester needs to really reach out to become a Destination Medical Community. We need to step up."
And "step up" is his plan. His sense of urgency aided from one off-the-cuff comment a Wall Street banker let slip during their tour of the properties.
"One of the bankers said to me 'Boy, do you get depressed living in this town?' and I said 'No. Why?' He says 'It's like walking among the walking wounded, everybody is in wheelchairs and crutches, and it's just so different from a normal city.' I had never thought of it that way."
Javon Bea worked closely with both Sister Generose and Sister Mary Brigh as they ran Mayo Clinic when it was growing by leaps and bounds 40 years ago.
His involvement with the downtown hotels came before the public announcement of Destination Medical Center. But Mayo has been working on D-M-C since 2007, according to Rochester City Chamber of Commerce President John Wade. He is upbeat about Javon Bea being involved in downtown.
"We welcome, certainly, the investment and the recognition of Rochester as the world's premiere Destination Medical Center, and the integral role that the hospitality industry plays in delivering excellent healthcare."
Bea's enthusiasm might help change Rochester.
"I'm really hoping to take these hotels that I think are mission critical to the DMC to become a Destination Medical Community, taking these hotels and taking those to a higher level of excellence and service, that's probably one of the greatest things I can do for Rochester."
Realize it or not, the transformation of Rochester has already begun.
"We're already laying plans, we're in the middle of construction at the Kahler Inn and Suites. We're taking the restaurant that's right there and that's going through total demolition. It's going to be highly up-scaled.
Up-scale may be in the plans for many of the establishments, bringing 5-star accommodations to the Med City.
"We have suites in The International, which are the top two floors of the Kahler, and these suites are decked out with, floor to ceiling, marble and are 2,000 square feet. They're like homes, and they're all occupied right now."
It could be a time of extreme prosperity for the downtown hotel properties, under the guidance of a man who is no longer a mystery, and knows a thing or two about success.
"I guess the vision that I have in my mind is really what I experienced when I first came to Rochester 40 years ago. The receptivity, the friendliness, the reaching out to help visitors was really unparalleled, it was almost at a level that you think 'Wow, this is amazing.'"
While you may not hear a lot about what is taking place with these properties, it is because of the private investors working quickly, faster than any larger company focusing on stock holders or a bottom line.
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