CADILLAC — Cadillac West is a beautiful area that is sometimes forgotten about by its downtown neighbors.
That’s according to Michael Blackmer, who, together with a financial backer, purchased the Cadillac Sands Resort in June of 2019, then promptly renamed the hotel “Lake Cadillac Resort."
When Blackmer bought the hotel, he knew it needed a lot of work. The cost, however, was more than expected.
“We had no idea what the costs were going to be, but it’s a lot more than we imagined,‘ Blackmer told media outlets on Wednesday morning during a tour of the resort and neighboring party store and restaurant, which Blackmer also recently purchased. “We’re already at the $2 million mark.‘
Blackmer estimated that renovations at the resort are about 40% complete. Snow means some of the work — like replacing the roof over the pool — is slow-going, but Blackmer is hopeful that renovations will be completed by the time the summer 2020 season starts over Memorial Day weekend (some rooms in the resort are available during renovation, at construction prices).
Other features of Blackmer’s attempts to revitalize the Cadillac West area are already open or expected to open next month.
And Blackmer has a plan for how to tie it all together, making the properties easier to access for his guests but also for other visitors to Cadillac West.
Passersby may have already noticed the change to the exterior color scheme at the resort; inside, you’ll see much of the same, a range of blues, grays and white.
Twelve rooms have already been renovated, with new flooring (Blackmer has opted for rugs instead of carpet), new bedding, new furnishings and new art.
He’s particularly proud of the renovated bathrooms; Blackmer opted to pull out the old tubs, reasoning that people usually shower at a hotel instead of taking baths. The new showers feature glass and tile.
Cadillac is the star of the show at the updated resort. Artwork in the hotel rooms features the canal and lake and other Cadillac views. And Blackmer said he’s hired local workers and bought local products whenever possible, from steel beams by Cadillac Fabrication to furniture purchased from VanDrie.
“Ninety percent of the cost of this motel is being spent here locally,‘ Blackmer said.
In addition to the hotel rooms, the resort will have a new roof over the pool, a downstairs cocktail lounge near the pool, and an upstairs restaurant where the nightclub used to be.
The conference room will be expanded and Blackmer plans to add an all-glass reception room toward the lake, with the idea of hosting weddings.
Blackmer is also planning to run festivals and events at the resort.
“This is gonna be the hottest spot in town when I get done with it. I’m having my own festivals and everything,‘ Blackmer said, adding that he has hired an event coordinator.
“Cadillac West is such a beautiful area, and Cadillac forgets about it,‘ Blackmer said.
In late 2019, the city approved stacking commercial redevelopment and rehabilitation districts for Cadillac West, which includes the properties Blackmer owns. He applied for and received a tax break that temporarily freezes his taxes at pre-renovation rates.
Blackmer says he knows it doesn’t end there, though; he plans to regularly update the facilities so they do not fall into disrepair.
In another month, Cadillac West will have a new restaurant.
The Marina restaurant has been closed for about five years, Blackmer estimated. But the restaurant, which is southeast of the resort where the lake meets the causeway, has been undergoing a makeover since Blackmer purchased it.
Now, the restaurant, which will be renamed “Dockside Inn,‘ is anticipated to open mid-March.
Sean Frawley will be the chef; they’ve also brought in Lenny Martinez.
Frawley says the food will be “house-made.‘ The restaurant will serve steaks and “a condensed, consolidated Italian‘ menu.
Blackmer hopes to have the restaurant open in mid-March; for the first two months, they’ll serve dinner-only but they plan to start offering lunch in May.
Blackmer, who also owns The Pines in Cadillac West, is still deciding what to do with the upstairs space at the resort. It used to be a nightclub but he says he doesn’t want to do that; he’s cautious about what sort of crowd comes to the resort.
But he also doesn’t want to compete with the new restaurant or with The Pines, which in addition to being a bowling alley, also is known for its pizza.
Blackmer is weighing the idea of inviting a country-and-western act to regularly perform, installing hibachi grills, or even just serving sandwiches.
Part of the decision-making process is what will complement the new Dockside Inn and The Pines; he doesn’t want to serve pizza, for example, because he already serves pizza at The Pines.
PARTY STORE AND ICE CREAM
The former Rosa Blanca party store and site of Primo’s BBQ are now under Blackmer’s control as well. That building is also undergoing renovations and repurposing.
Blackmer intends to sell groceries (as well as beer, wine and liquor) at the newly-named Lake Cadillac Party store.
There will also be ice cream inside the building. Blackmer purchased the Cadillac Ice Cream Company’s equipment and is opening up “Ultimate Ice Cream‘ inside the party store building, where Primo’s was (the BBQ joint is moving to the other side of town).
Even some of the staff will stay the same. Blackmer said he didn’t realize it at the time, but a waitress at The Pines was the former manager of the ice cream company and he intends to have her manage his new ice cream store. Ultimate Ice Cream, like the Cadillac Ice Cream Company before it, will source ice cream from the Hudsonville and Ashby brands.
The party store is open now. The ice cream shop will open in late March.
NEW SIDEWALK, PAVILION AND BEACH
Blackmer plans to improve and expand a lakeside sidewalk connecting the three businesses (the resort, party/ice cream store and the restaurant). Moreover, he’s hoping to connect the sidewalk to the state park, providing a path for campers to use the amenities.
Additionally, Blackmer is planning to put in a pavilion and docks so that people can eat ice cream while lakeside and can use their boats to get to the restaurant.