Monterey Hotel's future remains unclear

Comments Comments Print Print
Jake Magee
Tuesday, July 15, 2014

JANESVILLE--Two of the downtown buildings owned by Grafft Investments Real Estate Re-Development will get attention before then end of the year, but the company has no immediate plans for the former Monterey Hotel.

The missing back wall of the abandoned Park Place Theater, knocked down in 2008, will be reconstructed by the end of 2014. The theater and upstairs portion of the next-door office will be converted into apartments, but probably not this year, Britten Grafft said.

There's no timeline on when the Monterey Hotel might be redeveloped into the apartment complex her father, Jim Grafft, has been planning for years, she said.

The hotel opened in 1929 and has hosted John F. Kennedy, Eleanor Roosevelt, Henry Luce and Louis Armstrong.

Nearly 90 years later, it sits abandoned, as it has since Jim Grafft bought it at a bankruptcy auction in 1996. A few communication antennas atop the building act as the hotel's only line of commercial activity.

The Gazette was not able to reach Jim Grafft for comment.

City officials said they worry about the state of the hotel.

“We do have some outstanding issues that we're starting to follow up on them with,” city planner Gale Price said.

Peeling lead paint and pools of water on the floor were problems in the past, but now it's a leaky roof, he said.

Grafft Investments had the roof patched, but it's beginning to leak again, meaning it will require a full reconstruction, Price said.

“We didn't want to do a full tear off (of the roof) because that would be part of the full remodel," Britten said.

"There's obviously been improvement with the roof,” she said, calling the repairs a minor issue.

In 2007, the city required Jim to renovate what had been the Park Place movie theater next door before he could fix the hotel. Jim expected renovations to finish that summer, but the discovery of asbestos halted work, according to Gazette files.

Jim originally planned to convert the theater into a two-tiered parking garage but now wants to redevelop the theater into two apartment units, Britten said. For now, it sits barren with its back wall removed.

The company hasn't moved out of its previous office located next door to the theater. The office's upstairs will be converted into a single apartment, Britten said.

Jim must await a permit from the city before he can begin renovating both the theater and office, Britten said.

“That project will be on the fast track once we get the building permit,” she said. She said she expects the permit within a few weeks.

Price said he's not aware of any pending permits for the Grafft properties.

"We have not received a building permit request or a plan review request," he said in a voicemail.

Price acknowledged it's the Graffts' right to keep the hotel vacant so long as it's properly maintained, but he doesn't want the city cluttered with empty properties.

“In the end, people can have a building that's vacant," Price said.

He would prefer the hotel not remain empty.

“The building still has some opportunity to be reused. We hope the Graffts would move forward with development of the property,” he said. “It's an important building in downtown Janesville.”

Britten said they're still interested in converting the Monterey Hotel into an apartment complex and commercial space.

“We have a lot of other business ventures here in Janesville that have kept us very busy,” she said. “We have to have everything in line before we start a project of that magnitude. It's not that we don't want to do the project; we just have to have everything lined up.”

The empty lot behind the theater will become secured parking for residents of the more than 25 apartments expected at the hotel, theater and office building. Converting the hotel into urban apartments in the heart of downtown with a covered parking lot would attract residents, Britten said.

“I think that would draw people to the downtown,” she said. “We're aiming to focus on young professionals moving back or to Janesville for the first time.”

Last updated: 3:11 pm Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Comments Comments Print Print