A key development story in the town of Brookville opened a new chapter on an unseasonably cold April Fool's morning Thursday.

A sizable crowd came out for the grand opening/ribbon cutting of Cobblestone Inn & Suites despite temps around freezing and a spate of snow flurries.

The project has been several years in the making, originating from a hotel feasibility study and other legwork done by the Franklin County Economic Development Commission and the FC Convention, Recreation & Visitors Commission. Cobblestone Hotels, LLC is an upper-midscale brand based out of Neenah, Wisconsin.

Nick Lawrence welcomed community members and local elected officials to the two-story, 45-room site across Highway 101 from the Brookville Lake tailwaters.

“This project was a long time coming to bring all the pieces together … it certainly took a lot of effort from a variety of community members,” confirmed Lawrence, president of The Wheatley Group, an economic consulting firm based in New Albany. “It takes a lot of folks moving in the same direction.
“The past year has been a challenging year,” he continued, “but this should reintroduce a lot of people to Brookville and Franklin County and the tremendous assets we have here, on the doorstep of spring.”

Lawrence thanked elected officials from the local level all the way to the federal government, members of Cobblestone corporate for their interest in Brookville, local businesses and organizations, area investors, hotel staff and Melissa Zabel Acton, senior district director for US Senator Todd Young.
This is the latest in a series of Opportunity Zone investments within the town limits involving local investors. The OZ program grew out of President Donald Trump's signing of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017.

Several were on hand from the Brookville Hotel Group, which helped finance the hotel. The group consists of Jason Allen and Brad Tebbe, Michelle Lunsford, Susan and Paul Moster, Peggy and David Brandon, Phil and Barb Williams, and Mick and Jenny Wilz.

The latter duo had the final words before the ribbon was cut.
“Some of you were here for our groundbreaking in October of '19, an emotional moment of all of us because it happened so quickly, it was such a big deal for our town and here we are now,” said Jenny.

Mick asked for a moment of silence to remember all those lost to the pandemic, something that prevented the November 2020 opening from occurring sooner.

“We got through a tough year,” he said. “I've been around projects like this my whole life and there were some big issues.”

He went on to relate that, besides the COVID-19 interruption, a major hurdle was running 10-inch sewer line 150 feet underground while trying to get through a “boulder the size of a house.”

Wilz gave special recognition to the Bernard Rosenberger family, from whom his group purchased this “beautiful piece of property.”

“They held onto it for a while,” he added, “for the right project. Bernie was quiet throughout but helped us run the sewer line through his property.”

Mick credited his brother Jim for learning – at a tax seminar - about the OZ info that ultimately brought the hotel here.

“A lot of things wouldn't have happened if people hadn't fed me the right information,” he said.

After thanking the staff, Wilz asked everyone to turn around and look “what we have here,” as he pointed to the Brookville Dam. “This is what our guests wake up to.”

Curtis Ward, Brookville Town Council president, celebrated not only the opening but also the process it took to “make this vision a reality.”

“I believe this is an example of how ideas can progress with people collaborating and moving a project forward,” he proceeded. “The addition of a hotel marks an effort to embrace the tourism industry. For so long, Brookville and Franklin County have had the mentality of fighting the benefits of our natural resources; this exemplifies what a project can be when people embrace what they have in the community.”

JR Woolridge III, regional director for the hotel chain's management firm Westmont Hospitality Group, sees the tourists that travel through town as a key dynamic in making the hotel successful.

He was headed to Urbana, Ohio later that day to open the chain's third effort in that state; the Brookville site follows established hotels in the southern Indiana towns of Salem and Charlestown.

Since 2008, Cobblestone has grown to 160 hotels either built or under construction, according to President/CEO Brian Wogernese.

“We're a small-town brand,” he said. “I'm from a small town, my partner's from a small town … we understand small towns. We knew small-town America was going to be better positioned to survive (the pandemic) than anywhere. I hope you're as proud of this as I am.”

The company's president of development, Jeremy Griesbach, thanked everyone who helped contribute to financing, as well as construction crews and staff.

“It helps in small-town America when locals step up to build a team and put stuff together,” he said.

Though not in attendance, state Senator Jeff Raatz (R-Centerville) and Representative Randy Lyness (R-West Harrison) sent prepared statements.
“On behalf of Senate District 27, I want to thank each of the investors for providing resources that made this a reality,” said Lawrence, reading Raatz's words. “I represent two of the three counties in this Opportunity Zone and I strongly believe this part of the state is destined for great success.”

“I'm proud to support legislation in Indianapolis that encourages projects like this,” Lawrence read the statement from Lyness. “As Franklin County works to expand its appeal and become a premier destination, I know Cobblestone will be a critical component.”

Tours were available, along with light refreshments. The hotel was offering a drawing for a free overnight stay, as well as Third Place gift certificates. WRBI radio, Batesville, will draw names for a trip to African Safari Wildlife Park in northern Ohio.

Cobblestone offers modern suites/rooms, a conference room, dining lounge, small fitness center and business center by the front lobby. Extended stay suites are located on each end – total of four on both floors – and include separate kitchenettes and bedrooms as well as a living area with a sofa sleeper. Rooms run from $85-$115 per night.