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History

Two Tales of A City Saving an Architectural Gem

Two Tales of A City Saving an Architectural Gem

Tale One:

Old Hotel Belleville / Meredith Home

by Belleville Historical Society

In the 1920’s, Belleville civic leaders identified the need for a modern hotel in their city to draw businessmen and conventions to town. The Belleville Chamber of Commerce spearheaded the construction of the Hotel Belleville to meet this need.

During the early years of the Great Depression, local leaders raised tens of thousands of dollars for a down payment to finance the $400,000 facility. The Art Deco-styled hotel opened in 1931 on the previous site of the Belleville House Hotel.

In 1962, the Belleville Diocese of the Catholic Church converted the hotel into a retirement facility called the Meredith Home and owned it until 2010, when it was purchased by the city of Belleville. In 2011, a resident paid off the city’s mortgage with the understanding that the building would be demolished and replaced by a park or plaza to honor the memory of his daughter.

BellevilleHistoricalSociety.org/

Editor’s Note: Over time, project costs to build a park soared as compared to the initial estimate. The family decided it was a project they no longer wanted to pursue.

Tale Two:

City of Belleville Sells Property Formerly Known as Hotel Belleville/Meredith Home

by Jennifer Ferguson

City of Belleville Public Relations & Communications Specialist

Belleville, Ill. – April 24, 2020 – The City of Belleville today announced that it has closed on the sale of the property at 16 S. Illinois St., the former site of Hotel Belleville and later, the Meredith Home to the Southwestern Illinois Development Authority (SWIDA) and St. Louis-based Bywater Development Group.

“This has been a long process and we’re looking very forward to progressing on this project as it is huge for Belleville,” said Mayor Mark Eckert.

The City of Belleville acquired the property in 2010 after the Diocese of Belleville closed the Meredith Home, a retirement facility that it operated since 1962. In 2016, SWIDA along with Bywater Development submitted a proposal for Lofts on the Square, a senior living development with 47 independent living units open to senior citizens who meet income restrictions.

In 2017, the property was listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and in 2018, the project was awarded federal tax credits by the Illinois Housing Development Authority in the amount of about $7.5 million. Then in 2019, the project was awarded State Historic Tax Credits in the amount of $2.1 million. The developers said the renovation would not be possible without the tax credits.

“It’s incredible to see that a building that was once slated for demolition will be back on the tax roll,” said Eckert. “This is a big win for Belleville. This project will invest nearly $14 million into our downtown.”

Lofts on the Square could bring as many as 60 new residents to downtown Belleville, generating an estimated $30,000 of property taxes annually. Eligible residents include those who are 55 and older and who earn less than 60 percent of the area’s median income. The senior apartments will be on the second through sixth floors and the first floor will be open as commercial space.

“This project will create about 150 construction jobs for more than a year’s time,” said Eckert. “This will create a strong economic boost for the region.”

“We couldn’t be more pleased about the closing of the financing and commencement of rehabilitation of Lofts on the Square,” said Jim Nations, chairman of the board of SWIDA. “This day has been a long time coming. Our team has worked hard to finalize a difficult financing, but we would not be here today but for the amazing and patient support of Mayor Eckert, the City Council, City Development staff—and the Belleville community which has worked diligently to save this important historic landmark.”

Despite the Great Depression, the building which was originally Hotel Belleville opened in 1931, spearheaded by the Belleville Chamber of Commerce to provide modern accommodations for businessmen and travelers. The architecture boasts a strong Art-Deco style, highlighted by the geometrical patterns created by brick and terra cotta. The hotel’s architect was Walter P. Manske, of the St. Louis firm of Manske and Bartling.

In 2017, the property was listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and in 2018, the project was awarded federal tax credits by the Illinois Housing Development Authority in the amount of about $7.5 million. Then in 2019, the project was awarded State Historic Tax Credits in the amount of $2.1 million. The developers said the renovation would not be possible without the tax credits.

“It’s incredible to see that a building that was once slated for demolition will be back on the tax roll,” said Eckert. “This is a big win for Belleville. This project will invest nearly $14 million into our downtown.”

Lofts on the Square could bring as many as 60 new residents to downtown Belleville, generating an estimated $30,000 of property taxes annually. Eligible residents include those who are 55 and older and who earn less than 60 percent of the area’s median income. The senior apartments will be on the second through sixth floors and the first floor will be open as commercial space.

“This project will create about 150 construction jobs for more than a year’s time,” said Eckert. “This will create a strong economic boost for the region.”

“We couldn’t be more pleased about the closing of the financing and commencement of rehabilitation of Lofts on the Square,” said Jim Nations, chairman of the board of SWIDA. “This day has been a long time coming. Our team has worked hard to finalize a difficult financing, but we would not be here today but for the amazing and patient support of Mayor Eckert, the City Council, City Development staff—and the Belleville community which has worked diligently to save this important historic landmark.”

Despite the Great Depression, the building which was originally Hotel Belleville opened in 1931, spearheaded by the Belleville Chamber of Commerce to provide modern accommodations for businessmen and travelers. The architecture boasts a strong Art-Deco style, highlighted by the geometrical patterns created by brick and terra cotta. The hotel’s architect was Walter P. Manske, of the St. Louis firm of Manske and Bartling.

Construction on the renovation of the building is slated to begin in the next few weeks.

To learn more: www.Belleville.net

Images & artist bio courtesy Belleville Historical Society: Artist Cari Casper-Bassler

Presently a member of the Art Department at Belleville West High School, Cari Casper-Bassler is a Graphic Design and Photography teacher. She believes that it is imperative for her to continue working and thinking. Since the artist’s mind is never at rest, always thinking of things to do, create or improve; she finds it beneficial to surround herself with creative students who provide her with daily artistic challenges.

She has participated in many exhibitions including The Schmidt Art Exhibition, Fontbonne Graduate Exhibition where she received Second Place for Best of Show, and the Belleville West Fine Arts Festival. She is also owner and operator of Casper-Bassler Photography.

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