Developer Tim Johnson will transform the Prairie State Bank building into a 32-room hotel

The Augusta Planning Commission unanimously approved a conditional use permit allowing the construction of a boutique-style hotel in the former Emprise Bank building in downtown Augusta.

The proposal by developer Tim Johnson would transform the bank building into a 32-room hotel. The only concerns raised by the planning commission had to do with parking in the downtown area.

Architect Bill Morris is working on the design for the new facility. He said the plan would be to use the city parking lot to the east of the building for the primary parking facility. Currently, there are 36 stalls in that lot, of which about 12-15 are used during the day by downtown residents and business owners.

“The downtown area has a history of public parking,” Morris said. “This wouldn’t impinge on downtown parking more than historical uses of the building.”

At one point, the building was owned by Prairie State Bank and was home to several dozen employees who all parked downtown.

City Manager Josh Shaw said with any downtown development, parking will be an issue in Augusta or any other downtown area.

“With a mixed-use district, downtown parking will always be hard,” Shaw said. “But this use will be no different than in the past, except that it might actually be better because of the transitional nature of the customers.”

Two downtown business owners came to Monday morning’s meeting to express support for the plan.

Kelly Modlin said he supported the hotel project.

“This would be a big thing for downtown Augusta,” Modlin said. “A business like that will draw more businesses and people downtown.”

Mike Martin and Matt Malone, who own an adjacent business, were in attendance.

“I would echo what Kelly said,” said Malone, also a Ward Four City councilor. “I’m glad we have gotten the downtown area where we want it. I want to see something like this that will bring people downtown.”

Shaw said the only way to handle the parking situation differently is to go to limited-time parking or metered parking downtown. He said that puts the responsibility and cost for enforcement back on the city. But that is only one concern.

“If we start writing a bunch of tickets to people parked downtown, that only makes the argument that we aren’t business friendly stronger,” Shaw said.

Shaw said a conditional use permit is not outside the scope of the ordinance controlling how downtown buildings may be used. One of the uses prescribed for buildings downtown is a bed and breakfast. Shaw said that was close to a hotel and especially the type of hotel being proposed.

Rick Blue made a motion to approve the conditional use permit and it passed unanimously 5-0 with two members absent.

Kent Bush can be reached at