Friday, March 02, 2012

The Charitone WILL rise again!

Hy-Vee Chairman and CEO Ric Jurgens discusses Hy-Vee's role in the Charitone's resurrection as Ray Meyer looks on.

There's good news and then there's really good news --- and this is the latter; some of the best Lucas County has had in recent years.

Thanks to amazing financial commitments from Hy-Vee and the Vredenburg Foundation to back the vision of attorney Ray Meyer (who has never given up hope for our battered old hotel), the Charitone is poised to rise during 2012 from its near-death experience and shine again.

Ray and Hy-Vee Chairman and CEO Ric Jurgens announced details of plans for reviving the Charitone when about 50 of us gathered in the structure's gutted first floor earlier this afternoon.

While others about him were envisioning the Charitone as a heap of rubble, Meyer never gave up on his commitment to returning the old hotel to life.

The initial financial package consists of a commitment of up to $1.6 million from Hy-Vee and an additional $500,000 from the Vredenburg Foundation, which honors the memory of the late Dwight and Ruth Vredenburg --- the "Vee" in Hy-Vee.

Koester Construction of Grimes, experienced in working with historic buildings (the Charitone is on the National Register of Historic Places), will be construction supervisor, working with architect Kirk Blunck through Hotel Charitone LLC, a free-standing non-profit, and the newly formed Chariton Historic Preservation Alliance.

Although all plans remain subject to change, construction could begin as early as August. Preliminary planning calls for the upper three floors to be developed into upper-scale rental apartments (very much needed in Chariton); the ground floor, into a restaurant. "We're still talking about the basement," Ray said.

"This project will happen," Jurgens assured us, adding that the elaborateness of the final plan will depend in part upon the scale of additional financing. Additional financing would include further financial commitments from Lucas Countyans as well as various tax credits and grants available for projects of this sort.

Looking east from the former lobby area into the former dining room and kitchen area of the now-gutted first floor of the Hotel Chariton. The project architect is sandwiched here between Mary Stierwalt, who thought if she ducked she might stay out of the photo, and Ben Franklin's Sam Felderman, at right.

And looking west, from the dining room area, into the former lobby area of the Charitone. The ceramic tile used as flooring originally appears to be intact, but whether or not it can be salvaged is another matter.

The Charitone, which opened its doors in 1923, was designed by Chariton architect William Perkins and flourished into the 1950s. It remained alive and in use until the turn of the 21st century, serving among other purposes as a furniture store. Sold in 2003 to an out-of-state developer, the interior was deconstructued as part of a plan to develop assisted living apartments within the Charitone envelope. After that plan was abandoned, the building began to deteriorate and it has stood vacant with boarded and broken windows since.

During January, in order to settle a pending nuisance lawsuit filed by the city, the former owner agreed to sell the building to Hotel Charitone LLC for roughly what he paid for it, $55,000 --- an amount also provided by Hy-Vee.

Some time earlier, Ray and Jurgens said, Hy-Vee had challenged Chariton to come up with a major improvement project that it could "sink its teeth into." Reviving the Charitone slipped logically into that slot and as discussions continued, the financial committments announced today were made.

In his remarks, Jurgens stressed Hy-Vee's continuing commitment to Chariton, where it has very deep roots. Although corporate headquarters now are located in West Des Moines, the Hy-Vee Distribution division continues to employ roughtly 1,100 here.


Anonymous said...

this is indeed GOOD NEWS....summer of 1948 I enjoyed lunches at the restaurant because I was employed at First State Bank....have lived many places since then BUT Chariton is dear to my heart! Pauline (Sellers) Askren

Ken said...

That's great news! Glad to see Hy-Vee stepping up to the plate in such a major way. (On a side note, Mary Stierwalt was one of my confirmation mentors about 40 years ago!)

Virginia said...

Wonderful news. I spend a couple of months a year in Chariton and for the past several years, every time I leave I wonder if the beautiful old building will still be standing when I get back. Many thanks and a huge debt of gratitude to HyVee and the Vredenburg Foundation!!! Virginia Cox

Nash said...

About twenty years ago I and a good friend of mine would spend hours talking about bringing the Charitone back to it's former glory. Over the last ten years my wife and I have talked,in great detail, about how great it would be to restore the hotel to it's 1940's beauty. Oddly enough, I don’t think I have ever been in the building and only ever peeked in through the doors. I am excited for the old building and for Chariton, and hope this will spark some interest in the restoration of other fine buildings on the square.

karen608 said...

I hope they don't do the interior too modern, I'd like a 1920s-40s look to the restaurant. Thank you for fixing up one of the wonderful landmarks in Chariton.