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Atwater gets second grant to renovate historic building

The Minnesota Historical Society recently approved a second grant to renovate the Hotel Atwater. Tribune file photo by Carolyn Lange

ATWATER -- The city of Atwater has received a second grant for a proposed project to renovate the town's historic Hotel Atwater.

The Minnesota Historical Society approved a $90,000 grant last year and last week notified the city that an additional $35,500 grant had been approved.

"It's really exciting," said City Councilman Mark Olson, who's also on a committee that's been studying the hotel project. "We're excited to get it and try to move forward with this."

The city council has been pondering what to do with the building for several years, ever since the owner offered it to the town for use as a city hall.

During a community meeting last year a majority of residents favored renovating the old hotel rather than building a new facility to house its library, police and city offices.

There's never been a consensus among council members, however, on whether the city should stick money into the gutted, vacant building, build a new structure or stay where they'd at. The city must match the grants provided by the Historical Society.

Getting the second hotel preservation grant may tip the balance.

The second grants shows that the Minnesota Historical Society is "willing to back this project," said Olson.

"It's a beautiful building," he said. "It'd be a shame to lose it."

Using funds from a former city economic development committee, the 11-member committee was authorized to spend up to $5,000 on an architect.

Olson said they hired Engan Associates Architects last week to develop cost estimates and a lay-out plan for the interior of the building.

Engan believes the space is big enough to house the library, police, city offices and council chamber, said Olson.

There's been concern expressed by some city council members that even if the hotel was renovated, they'd still need another building for one of the entities, like the police department or library.

Currently the city office and police department are housed in the town's old depot and the library is renting space in a commercial building on state Highway 12.

The committee will work with the architect to draw up a plan and put together cost estimates, said Olson.

Once a concrete proposal has been developed, Olson said the plans will be presented at another community meeting, possibly yet this year.

After that, it'll be up to the city council to make the final decision.

The city has been putting money away for several years in anticipation of some sort of project for a new city hall.

Olson said no work will be done on the hotel until there's been a final decision by the city council. If the decision in no, Olson said the city will not have spent anything in the process.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for 35 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

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