Situated on the shore of Lake Minnetonka, ornamented by historic homes and anchored by a quaint downtown near the water, the one-square-mile city of Excelsior is again proving enticing to new development -- a 58-room hotel and a micro brewery.
"It's a really cool town and right on the lake, and it's been that way for 150 years," said City Council Member Greg Miller. "We have a lot of restaurants and there is a lot of night life."
So strong is the city's allure that City Council members recently felt compelled to find out if Excelsior would have enough water capacity for the two new developments that are being contemplated by different developers. Although Lake Minnetonka was long ago the city's water source, all Excelsior homes and businesses now get their water from three wells sunk into an underground aquifer.
WSB & Associates of Minneapolis studied the water supply and reported recently that based on current use and fire protection needs, the city does have enough water capacity to serve a hotel, a micro brewery and another 450 single-family homes, if ever needed.
With that finding, a proposal to build a hotel will likely be submitted this fall, said Neil Weber, who is the architect of the hotel that Charlie James wants to build in downtown Excelsior.
The site would be a property James has owned for 35 years. It was the former home of a Pizza Hut and is now a vacant lot at the corner of Water and Lake streets.
"What we are going to be proposing is a small 58-room boutique hotel to bring back the same kind of character that once was on Lake Minnetonka with the resort hotels in the 1800s," Weber said. "Right now there exists no hotel on Lake Minnetonka."
Between 1853 and 1964, there were more than 60 hotels and boarding houses around Lake Minnetonka, including the notable Excelsior House, according to "Lake Minnetonka's Historic Hotels," by Ellen Wilson Meyer.
For James, being able to connect his new hotel with the history of the city is the appeal of building in Excelsior, Weber said
The micro brewry proposal is coming from three men drawn to Excelsior by its lakefront location. Jon Lewin of Tonka Bay, Patrick Foss of Chanhassen and John Klick of Orono have proposed opening The Excelsior Brewing Co. in a yet-to-be-selected location downtown.
The city this month amended an ordinance to allow a brewing company downtown, but other city approvals still would be needed.
"Excelsior has so much heritage and history, it just seems like it should have a brewery," said Klick, who skis, sails and iceboats on Lake Minnetonka.
He sees a market for a brewery among the boating crowd.
"The average boat enthusiast seems to be a beer drinker," and an Excelsior brewery could bring boaters to town, Klick said.
A micro brewery sells less than 15,000 gallons of beer a year. The group would like to offer tours and tasting in a tap room and sales of beer in 64-ounce returnable glass jugs, as well as an on-site bar, Klick said. Primary sales would be to bars, restaurants, yacht clubs and golf courses.
"We are evaluating existing buildings and developing a building ourselves," Klick said.
Laurie Blake • 612-673-1711