Albia, led by the vision of the late Robert Bates, pioneered the concept of town square restoration and revitalization in the south of Iowa --- back in the late 1950s and 1960s. He and others who developed stylish apartments in underutilized spaces on the upper levels of downtown commercial buildings called themselves cliff-dwellers.
Now 50 years later, the number of Chariton cliff-dwellers is increasing, too, with the recently restored Charitone and a 10-unit upper-level housing initiative supplementing the number of apartments already available "upstairs." Those 10 new apartments are scheduled to open to tenants this spring.
This is the room in the new apartments above Piper's, now nearing completion, that always engages my imagination --- huge double windows looking out south over the square; tall single windows looking east across North Grand Street toward the Charitone.
I took a trip upstairs on Wednesday and spent a little time getting in the way of workers, now focused on finishing the two Piper's apartments so that they'll be ready for tenants.
Southeast across the North Grand/Braden Avenue intersection, Betty Hanson already has rented one of the new apartments in her Iowa Realty building and the remaining three apartments are nearing completion, too.
At both Piper's and at the Iowa Realty building, a final step will be to pull the vintage iron exterior staircases that provide access to both of Jill's apartments and two of Betty's, transport them to Johnson Machine Works for restoration and modification, then reinstall them.
The four new apartments in the Demichelis building, west at the intersection of Braden and North Main, now are scheduled to be the last completed and ready for occpancy. The stairs there are internal. All 10 apartments are part of Chariton's upper-level housing initiative, funded by federal grants and owner matches.
Upstairs at Piper's the floors all have been refinished and turned out beautifully, woodwork has been repainted or refinished and the walls have their initial coats of paint, too. All the infrastructure is in place --- so that final coat of paint, followed by installation of appliances (refrigerators, stoves, washers and dryers and dishwashers) will be other final steps.
Currently, a mountain of boxed appliances occupies much of the kitchen-dining room of Jill's south apartment (visible here thorugh the door), so I didn't take any photos, but here's the bedroom, looking south over the square through double windows, too, and opening into the living room to the left.
This apartment probably would be best suited for a single person --- the rooms are wonderful, but there are only three of them, plus bath.
This is the entrance hall, showing the door onto the exterior stair landing that will be used by tenants and guests.
The north apartment at Piper's is huge, two big bedrooms flanking at the north and south ends a bigger kitchen-dining room and a spacious living room joined by doubled doors. There are two bathrooms.
Entry is into the kitchen-dining room, looking through north here into the living room.
And here's the view from the living room south through refinished doubled doors into the kitchen-dining room and, beyond, into the south bedroom.
Once in the south bedroom (above), turn around and you can get an idea of the size of the apartment as you look north through kitchen-dining room and living room into the north bedroom.
I'll be back when the apartments are done. Don't be surprised when the exterior staircases on this corner of the square vanish briefly --- they'll be back, too.