City has high hopes for Lamoine Hotel

Charlie Schmidt

Downtown Macomb may not have to wait until 2016 for renovations to begin, at least not the historic Lamoine Hotel, which appears to be finally getting the new purpose and care it desperately needs.What was once a source of community pride has become a fountain of melancholy for Macomb residents in recent years as the building fell into disrepair.The hotel lost its final occupants in March when the McDonough County Voice moved around the corner to the former JC Penney building at 26 W. Side Square.On Thursday, the Community Development Committee for the Macomb City Council had more discussions about the immediate future of the hotel.

Lifelong Macomb resident Chris Trotter of Trotter Contracting Inc. is working with a non-profit group (which he didn’t name) and the city of Macomb to cooperatively save the landmark.Together they are drafting development agreements for Trotter to purchase and renovate the hotel with help from the city.Their ultimate goal is to renovate the Lamoine Hotel into an assisted living facility for the elderly, potentially with some type of memory care program.The renovated building would have 30-40 units on the upper floors, with offices and commercial uses on the ground floor.

Trotter is the owner of Trotter General Contractors, Trotter Commercial Roofing and West Central Development Inc.He has a personal history with the old hotel.“I remember being in the restaurant there as a kid,” Trotter said.“Sitting in the windows and watching the parades go by in the coffee shop . . . so we would love to be the ones to restore it.”He said the corporation has also been looking at rehabilitation projects in a number of communities.“They have looked at the site, they have been through the building, and they think it would work for what they want to do in this area,” Trotter said.“The market study shows there is still a need for it.”“We tend to think this building will work for us; we do have concerns about the condition of the building.”“We tend to think this building will work for us; we do have concerns about the condition of the building. It’s in very rough shape,” Trotter said. “We believe if a roof is not put on the building this year, it won’t make it through another winter and still be structurally sound.”I think it’s at its limit for what it can take.”

Trotter is well-equipped to handle the problem because of the commercial roofing company he owns.As a longtime resident, Macomb Fourth Ward Alderman Dave Dorsett is familiar with the hotel’s struggles.“I’ve been in there many times,” Dorsett said. “I was there when I was younger when it was open. The first floor was the only floor in use for the last several years. The second and third floors were still more or less the way they were when it was a hotel, and the fourth and fifth floors had been partially demolished by previous owners in an attempt to start redevelopment.“Currently my understanding is that the roof is in pretty bad shape.”

Dorsett had previously worked at the building while employed by the McDonough County Voice.According to City Administrator Dean Torreson, water penetrates all levels of the building, down to the basement, when it rains.“Something has to be done with that building soon, or we risk it not being salvageable at all,” Torreson said, adding that if the building is not renovated soon it will have to be demolished at a cost of about halfmillion dollars.Torreson said that a government loan and market study is currently underway, and that a USDA loan is required for the deal to take place.

Also, the city has had $200,000 earmarked for the hotel in the city’s bank account for several years while it attempted to find a contractor.The funds would be a contribution to the project and not a loan.The city has been trying to develop a long-term plan for the hotel for nearly a decade.Torreson explained that the project had two steps: purchasing the property, fixing the roof and completing the market study are the first steps. Possible city participation in a tax increment financing (TIF) contribution to the renovation of the building would be the second step.“The key concept to remember in this project is this will not happen, it cannot happen without the city’s financial participation,” he said. “The public needs to understand that.”

While it is too early for concrete numbers, purchasing the Lamoine Hotel would cost $200,000-$300,000, and renovations would likely be between $2.5 and $3 million.

The Lamoine Hotel was added to the National Register of Historic places in 2010, creating even more urgency to give the landmark a renaissance. On top of that, the nearby courthouse square was added to the register in May.“I think it would be a huge benefit for the community to have that building up and running in some manner. The original building of the Lamoine Hotel was a great community undertaking,” Dorsett said.“It was developed as a community project; shares were sold to business owners and average citizens in an attempt to revitalize downtown even in 1926,” he continued. “So I think psychologically, certainly it would be a real boon to have that up and running.”

Fifth Ward Alderman Clay Hinderliter has been a Macomb resident for more than 30 years. He also wants to see the hotel reconstructed, but his reasons are just as much about function for Macomb as they are about history.“Revitalized, as a tax paying citizen of Macomb, it means a lot. It’s got some history. It’s a huge asset. It was put up by the community with bond issues in 1926, and at the time, was probably one of the better hotels in the area if not in the whole region,” Hinderliter said.“It was a huge asset as far as a property tax base. If we lose it, we lose the tax asset. We’ll have a big hole in our infrastructure,” he said. “We’ve been hoping something like this would happen, somebody would renovate it, somebody would make it fulfill a valuable purpose within the community.“We’ve had one or two people, agencies, express interest in it at one point in time, but it just didn’t work out one way or another. This particular set of people seem to be very interested, seem to have the financial backing, seem to have a plan, and we’re going to listen to what they have to say.”Hinderliter remains cautiously optimistic though. “Until documents are signed, everything is tentative… It’s not black and white, its not a done deal, there’s a lot of issues still in the air.”In the meantime, the city of Macomb holds its collective breath in earnest.

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