LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) - Three new buildings near Riverside Park show the success of LHI and CEO Don Weber, but it's a century old building near the park that is Weber's latest challenge.
We know it today as the Ross Furniture building, but the structure carries with it 116 years of history. Now, Don Weber hopes to bring it into the future by preserving its past.
"The location is ideal," says Weber, who admits that launching a hotel is unchartered territory. "It's been a learning experience, but it's a fun project."
The Ross Furniture building was originally purchased for its prime location near Riverside Park with a plan to fill a need for a specialty hotel, but once the project got going, Weber started seeing the importance of its history. Over the years we've had some beautiful, historic buildings that we've destroyed," says Weber, "and for this building to turn into a parking ramp or whatever I think would have been a real loss this community."
But Preserving that history presents challenges. When Weber built the LHI campus it was from the ground up, this project is much different. "We're going to use a lot of the existing structure and the materials," says Weber, "These big oak, wood columns and these beams, the brick facade, outside the original building on the top, all of those things, the old water tower."
The history of the building is also pushing back the timeline for opening. Since the start of the project, the historic tax credits jumped considerably and Weber's team decided to apply. "That's a four month process," says Weber, "so we decided this December now is time, let's go ahead and do that, so we pretty much had to push everything back four months."
In all it will bring a new hotel, tourism and jobs to the area, but Weber hopes it bring much more. "So many before our time took a lot of risk and did a lot for this whole region." says Weber, "so that it is what it is today and I'm hoping 50 years from now, long after I'm gone, people are still enjoying the things that we all do and prospering, the community will continue to prosper."
Just because there is a four month delay doesn't mean the work has stopped. Weber already has a team around him working on plans for the Charmond Hotel, some are already going through training more than a year before opening. Weber is hoping to have the hotel open and ready for business in the spring of 2015.
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