Thursday, January 10, 2013

Charitone update: Top to bottom

Some time before Christmas, I planned to round up the Hotel Charitone reconstruction supervisor, put on a hard hat and take another tour. But one thing led to another, then to everything other than the tour --- and here it is January.

But it won't be long now until workers begin framing up apartments on the top three floors of the 1923 building, and the opportunity to see structurally how the project is coming together will have passed. So Tuesday night, Patty Bisgard --- who wanted to tour, too --- rounded up her husband, Denny, as guide and along with Gayle Bortz, we did the inspection together Wednesday morning.

During October, the last time I was inside, it was possible to stand on the street, look up through fourth-floor windows and see sky. The new roof was completed during December and now --- for the first time in decades --- the building is secure against water, which not that long ago poured through the old roof and infiltrated as far as the basement.

The original Charitone roof was wood --- and so is the new one. This is how it looks from underneath --- and here's a view out the access hatch over the new surface and the roofs of the library and Presbyterian church into the hills east of town.

Also on the fourth floor, framing work for interior walls of the reconstructed hotel has begun. Perhaps during February, the walls of individual apartments --- three two-bedroom apartments and one one-bedroom apartment per floor --- will begin to take shape.

The State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) has approved window strategy for the Charitone, too. Windows like this --- on the west and south street facades --- will be rebuilt using as much original material (other than glass) as possible. New windows replicating the originals will be built for the north and east facades. The reconstruction and manufacturing process will begin shortly, which means all those blinded exterior openings will be reopened during 2013.

Here's a view from the fourth floor down the now-empty elevator shaft. This shaft will be reused, too, with insesrtion of a new elevator car and mechanicals. Even the shaft topper, always a familiar feature of the Charitone roofline, will be reinstalled in an effort to make the hotel looks as nearly as possible as it did when constructed.

The elevator will be modified, however, to allow for a half-floor landing at ground level on the first-floor north side. The handicap entrance to the Charitone, also a principal entrance for apartment tenants, will be constructed on the north facade of the hotel. Limited parking also will be located north of the building.

Once the roof was complete and the building sealed for winter, workers began sandblasting interior steel supports in order to assess their structural viability, replacing those damaged by decades of water infiltration, then coating and painting them all --- beginning on the fourth floor and working down. That project continues. This is how the third floor, where work on the steel supports has been completed, looks now. Contrast that with this view of the basement, where work on the supports has not begun. The basement now is entirely dry, by the way.

The main floor of the hotel has been cleaned, but supports have not yet been sandblasted and painted. This floor will be filled entirely by a restaurant, bar and kitchen/service areas. An announcement concerning the hospitality tenant is expected fairly soon. But major work will not begin here until it can be tailored to fit the needs of the tenant.

Work Tuesday was concentrated on the service bay at the east end of the hotel building, which always has served as delivery area for the hotel kitchens. That work extends into the basement, since it was necessary to install a heavier-duty floor here.

On the exterior, wells that allow light to reach basement windows have been reopened to their original size. The basement will, in the intial stage, contain a second set of restrooms to serve first-floor hospitality areas as well as tenant storage. It remains a high, dry and well-lighted area that might be redeveloped for other purposes, however. Originally, a barber shop filled the basement's east end. A beauty shop and a bar also have been located on this level.

Although there is no firm completion date for the Chariton project, 2013 is likely to be the year the old hotel returns to life. Total cost now is estimated at nearly $5 million with $1.6 million of that amount coming from Hy-Vee and $500,000 from the Vredenburg Foundation. Federal and state preservation tax credits will cover approximately 45 percent of the total cost.

The balance will be covered primarily by charitable contributions and the Lucas County Preservation Alliance, non-profit arm of Hotel Chariton LLC, received its certification from the Internal Revenue Service during December. So those tax-deductible contributions are now being accepted.

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