Bertram Inn rezoning request, Issue 2, would back conversion of rooms to condos

Bob Gaetjens
Record-Courier
Heritage Development has no exterior renovations in its plans to convert 75 hotel rooms to 25 to 30 condominium units ranging in size from one to three bedrooms. The company hopes to start work later this year.

The future of the Bertram Inn & Conference Center will be in the hands of Aurora voters on Tuesday when they will decide whether to permit a change from industrial zoning to mixed-use zoning for the 16.4-acre property.

A “Yes” vote on Issue 2 would approve the rezoning change.

Heritage Development Vice President and Director of Real Estate Rob Benjamin said the company would like to convert 75 hotel rooms to 25 to 30 upscale condominiums as a way to boost the Bertram’s bottom line. That would leave 149 hotel rooms.

More:Bertram Inn condominium proposal could be on May ballot

Condominiums are not permitted under industrial zoning, but they are under mixed-use zoning.

“It could be a good use for a young professional or older empty nesters,” said Benjamin. “We thought it would generate some activity at the Bertram.”

The city of Aurora backs the plan, Mayor Ann Womer Benjamin said.

“The city believes mixed-use is more appropriate for the location than industrial,” she said.

More:Geauga Lake's next development phase under way

Located on the west edge of Barrington along Route 43, north of Route 82, The Bertram Inn & Conference Center has been hosting guests for 21 years, according to George Kimson, chief operating office at Heritage Development. 

At that time, the north end of Aurora looked very different: Sea World was still open and it would be years before Six Flags Geauga Lake finally closed its gates to park-goers. When those parks closed, business got more difficult, according to Benjamin.

“Shamu was a big draw,” he said. “I don’t think people realize how big of a draw Shamu was." 

When both Sea World and Geauga Lake were open, many guests from out of town would make a two-day trip of it, visiting Sea World one day and Geauga Lake the next. Some hotels in Streetsboro, which were new around that time, also struggled when Sea World and later Geauga Lake closed.

The hotel and conference center has struggled during the COVID-19 pandemic, added Benjamin. 

The plans for renovations are all interior, he said. 

“We are not making any exterior changes,” said Benjamin. “We’re going to make some improvements within the building, and we’ll probably have a separate entry on the outside for the condos.”

The condo suites would range in size from one to three bedrooms, and the plan to renovate 75 hotel rooms would still leave about 149 hotel rooms after the project is completed, according to Benjamin.

He said there would a designated parking area for condominium residents who would access their homes by key fob. 

“The entry is already there,” said, explaining the development company would like an awning with the name of the condo area, which has yet to be determined. 

The condos would be upscale, and residents would have access to many of the same amenities hotel visitors enjoy, he said. 

“Currently, we have a workout facility, and we have the restaurants, including Paws and The Leopard,” said Benjamin. “We’ve got multipurpose rooms for parties, and we’ve got an amphitheater in the building, as well.”

There also is an outdoor pool.

Heritage Development may add an additional workout area and shared office space for residents, he added. 

“If you can order room service for your condo, if you can have dry cleaning done, that wold be great,” he said. “If people live there, then they may promote [the hotel] to family and friends staying there when they visit.”

If voters approve Issue 2 and the city of Aurora OKs renovation plans, Benjamin said he hopes start renovations later this year. 

“We look at this as a very positive step,” he said. “We’ve been a big part of this community with the development of Barrington and the Bertram.”

Reporter Bob Gaetjens can be reached at 330-541-9440, bgaetjens@recordpub.com and @bobgaetjens_rc.