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In Atwater, residents lobby for the renovation of historic hotel

ATWATER -- Just when the lifeline was ready to be unplugged from the Hotel Atwater renovation project, CPR is being performed.

Last month the council agreed to return a $90,000 grant to the Minnesota Historical Society and deed the historic building back to its previous owner.

The council was expected to approve a formal resolution Tuesday to make all that happen.

But between the two meetings, community residents started lobbying for the project. As a result, the council said it will delay returning the grant and the building while a committee made up of community residents attempts to keep the project alive.

The committee will be spearheaded by Councilman Shane Hagstrom, who has long been a strong supporter of the project.

The group is expected to hold at least one community meeting to see if a majority of residents still want to renovate the building for a city office, library and police department.

The structure is solid, according to engineers, but much work and money will be needed to make it usable.

Mayor Bruce Baker said even with the state grant, which the city has to match, the city would have to invest thousands of dollars in additional money. Given the economy and potential cuts in local government aid from the state, Baker is less than enthused. At a community meeting last year, a majority of residents said the council should spend city money on the hotel.

Baker said if the committee can "get enough of the town behind them and come up with a sizable amount of money" this second time, then the council will wait until this winter to make a final decision about returning the money and the building. "I'm giving them one more chance and they can take it from there," Baker said.

Sue Meyerson, who sold the building to the city for $1, said she is pleased the project is getting a second chance and is eager to work with the community to do the renovation in phases.

"I think the hotel is a very valuable asset to the community," Meyerson said, and it would be a "lost opportunity" not to pursue the project and complete it in construction stages.

"We have a responsibility to be good stewards of the historical buildings that we do have," she said.

Baker said continuing to study the potential of renovating the hotel is, "like dragging the dog a little too long before it's hung," but he said the council agreed to let this new community committee "take another run at it."

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for more than 30 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

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