By Steve White, Grand Island Bureau Chief - bio | email
A classic tower in downtown Grand Island finds new life. It won't be the luxury hotel that had been proposed, but there's hope it will spur redevelopment efforts.
"Either somebody has to do something with the building, or the building has to come down," City Planning Director Chad Nabity said.
City leaders don't have to worry about the Masonic Temple coming down if Amos Anson has anything to say about it.
Plans for a boutique hotel in downtown Grand Island are dead, but that was Plan B.
Anson said, "It was a long shot to begin with, but we were willing to take the risk to wait eight, nine months and put this project on hold, for the hope it would go through, now we're back to Plan A."
Another developer was behind the Nebraskan Hotel. But it's the Anson family that owns the building.
They're also the ones behind the popular Chocolate Bar downtown.
Amos envisions high-end apartments and commercial space.
He said, "Downtown's been stagnant for 20 years and I believe and it's been shown through past experience it can be something very, very nice."
Everyone agrees the building is structurally sound, but it lacks a fire escape and sprinklers.
The Community Redevelopment Authority agrees it's worth saving, and granted Anson nearly $300,0000 to tackle those problems.
"It was a huge hurdle, big difference of making a business work or not work," he said.
Anson says city officials have been very helpful in the process, and city leaders say that's because it's in their best interest to help the building find new life.
Nabity said, "It is a classic, icon building in downtown Grand Island. We don't have many of those."
The city planning director says it would cost as much to tear the building down, and all they'd have to show for it would be room to park just ten cars.
So they're giving Anson a shot, believing it could spur more development.
He said, "The building's been unoccupied for years and years. They want downtown to grow too, the more that's going on here, the higher the property values, it's mutually beneficial to everybody."
The new name is Tower 217, named for its address on Locust Street. For more, visit www.tower217.com.