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ASHWAUBENON - The ceremonial groundbreaking Tuesday for Lodge Kohler barely stayed ahead of actual construction, because dirt was already flying in the Titletown District.

"For seven years of planning, and long discussions, different options, looking at everything, those all take a back seat now to what is the reality, that construction is actually beginning," said Green Bay Packers President and CEO Mark Murphy. "It's so heartwarming and exciting to look out and see dirt being moved and see shovels in the ground."

Lodge Kohler, a four-diamond hotel owned by Kohler Co., is the first anchor to begin construction in the Packers' commercial, retail and residential district. It has the longest timeline, at 18 months, to make the scheduled Summer 2017 opening. The other anchors, which are expected to begin construction soon, are Hinterland Brewery and a Bellin Health sports medicine clinic.

Titletown District is a 34-plus acre development, all in Ashwaubenon, bordered by Lombardi Avenue, South Ridge Road, Marlee Lane and Brookwood Drive. Phase 1 consists of 21 acres, including 6 acres of a planned 10-acre public park and plaza. The Packers have said they will work on the rest of the project once they get the anchors and plaza underway.

"We are still working on final designs for the public park and plaza,"  said Packers vice president Ed Policy, who's spearheaded the Titletown District project. "We continue to talk to a number of prospective tenants."

The district also will have 180,000 square feet of commercial space along Lombardi Avenue and Marlee Lane, and as many as 70 townhouses along Brookwood Drive. Policy said plans for the townhouses should be finalized by the end of summer.

"We are going to take the time to get it right. We will be methodical as we always have," Policy said of all remaining elements of the project.

Kohler Co. Executive Chairman Herb Kohler said Murphy first contacted him about Titletown in May 2014, saying, "You are Wisconsin, you are independent and you produce the quality we desire."

"Well into the project, I began to appreciate the impact of his offer," Kohler said. "First, he was wanting a pretty noteworthy price for the lease of this land. Second, we’d have to forego a substantial amount of meetings and banquets, a significant profitable business quite important to a hotel like ours."

Meetings and banquet space will be provided by the Packers across the street in the Lambeau Field Atrium.

Kohler said his company, which also owns resorts and hotels in Kohler and St. Andrews, Scotland, decided to go ahead with the project anyway.

"This is not offered anywhere else in the world at any type of athletic venue," he said. "We believe the activity surrounding this complex will be continuous and substantial, sufficient to support a high rate of occupancy on an annual basis."

The 110,000-square-foot hotel will have 144 rooms on five floors, including 10 suites; a top-floor, panoramic bar, restaurant and cigar terrace; a full-service garden spa, six treatment rooms, three finishing stations; innovative water treatments, therapeutic massage, facial and body exfoliation and renewal. Also, an indoor/outdoor pool opening to a garden, a fitness facility and private courtyard. And a gift shop that sells the expected items and the unexpected, such as world champion cheeses, smoked salmon and Packers artifacts on consignment. An outdoor tent will be available for tailgating.

Ashwaubenon Village President Mike Aubinger said he first met with the Packers seven years ago about development near the stadium.

"The process is a little difficult. You have to negotiate, you have to change things, you have to go back and forth, but in the end, I am so proud of this community, the people that were involved," he said. "This building is the first nail in the Titletown development. We are so happy the first component could be with Kohler Co."

Contact rryman@greenbaypressgazette.com and follow him on Twitter @RichRymanPG, onInstagram at rrymanpgor on Facebook at Richard Ryman-Press-Gazette. Or call him at (920) 431-8342.

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