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River Bend Hotel planned for Ashtabula’s harbor district is town’s first new hotel in 100 years

January 9, 2019

River Bend Hotel planned for Ashtabula’s harbor district is town’s first new hotel in 100 years

ASHTABULA, Ohio – Ashtabula, the small lakefront town with growing tourism appeal, is getting a new hotel – its first in 100 years.

City council on Monday approved a 10-year tax break for the 26-room, boutique-style River Bend Hotel, being developed by an Ashtabula native who wants to help his hometown thrive. It will likely open early in 2020.

“I wanted to do something that would be transformative, that would be positive for Ashtabula,” said Todd Canter, now of Baltimore, a former executive with LaSalle Investment Management Securities, an international real estate firm. “I’ve always recognized the potential.”

In recent years, Ashtabula’s harbor district, north of downtown, has been the focus of both public and private investment, with numerous restaurants and shops opening on Bridge Street near the Ashtabula River. The city, with population of about 19,900, is 60 miles east of Cleveland on the Lake Erie shore.

About a year and a half ago, Canter approached city manager Jim Timonere about his interest in investing in Ashtabula. He asked Timonere what the community most needed. Timonere suggested a small hotel, which will be built on vacant land at the corner of W. 6th Street and Goodwill Drive.

Timonere also helped Canter put together a small group of local investors, which includes Larry Laurello of Laurello Vineyards.

The new hotel plans to take full advantage of its location in the middle of Northeast Ohio’s thriving wine-making region. Plans call for a wine bar on the first floor, plus a second wine bar on the fifth-floor roof, with views of the river, the lake and the Ashtabula Lift Bridge.

“We think that it’s going to be quite a unique concept, unrivaled in the region,” said Canter, whose mother and other family still live in the region. “It’s going to be an incredibly beautiful scene.”

In this 2004 file photo, the Ashtabula Lift Bridge is lit under a full moon. The bridge will be within view of the a new hotel planned in Ashtabula, the city’s first in 100 years. (Plain Dealer/Scott Shaw)  SCOTT SHAW

The 25,000-square-foot hotel will feature meeting space, a fitness center and 26 rooms, including two connecting family suites. The remaining 24 suites, with separate sleeping and living quarters, will all face northeast, with views of the river and lake.

Canter plans to hire a management firm to run the inn, and promises it will be no cookie-cutter chain. “Looking at the historic nature of Bridge Street, the concept of a chain did not fit in my mind,” said Canter.

He expects construction to start this spring, with an opening date in the first quarter of 2020.

It is the first hotel to be built in Ashtabula since 1920, when the six-story Hotel Ashtabula opened downtown. That hotel closed in 1985, and is currently used as a medical office.

The new River Bend Hotel is being financed with help from city and council loans totaling about $340,000, according to Timonere. The city also approved a 10-year, 75-percent tax abatement on the property.

This likely isn’t the last Ashtabula project for Canter, a 1983 graduate of Edgewood High School. He said he has purchased additional land in the city and is considering how best to develop it.

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