UPDATE JULY 9, 2017: Locals and visitors agree that the new US Hotel Balcony is incredible! Just completed this weekend, the 3-month-long, $223,000 restoration project was done by Justin Caprari Restoration and includes an entirely new steel-reinforced structure, floor, railings and gutters.
US Hotel Balcony Project Almost Complete!
Just in time to celebrate July 4th, the reconstruction of the US Hotel balcony is expected to be completed by the last week of June. In early June, the Review took a tour of the construction site with Jackson County Commissioner Rick Dyer, Mayor Paul Becker, City Administrator Jeff Alvis and Mayor Paul Becker.
Jackson County Commissioner Rick Dyer, who serves as the county liaison to the Jacksonville City council, was quick to note that a cooperative effort between Jacksonville city officials and Jackson County officials was an important component in making the project a reality. The historic hotel is currently owned by Jackson County. The restoration project, said Jeff Alvis, had been talked about for a decade but not much had happened until October 2016 when the county got serious about restoration. Commissioner Dyer pointed out that he and his fellow county commissioners all agreed that the $223,000 price tag was money well-spent. Dyer says the decision to hire Justin Caprari Restoration to handle the historic renovation was a great decision.
Furthermore, Dyer noted that the county has decided not to sell the building. Rather than putting it up for sale, it will continue renting the lower level to US Bank and working closely with the Jacksonville Inn and others to rent and utilize the upper ballroom space for public and private functions.
During construction phases, Caprari noted that worked progressed mostly as anticipated, despite having to tent the building in a plastic bubble when lead-based paint had to be removed early on. That unforeseen cost overrun, according to Commissioner Dyer, was $23,000 in addition to another $30,000 in added architectural and design changes. Despite the cost, Dyer noted that the building was too important to the citizens of the county and that balcony replacement couldn’t be delayed any longer. City Councilor Brad Bennington added that it was fortunate that the county stepped in and covered the expense, something that may not have been viable for a private owner with limited funds available for restoration work of this magnitude.
During a seperate site visit with the Review, Justin Caprari noted that the building walls weren’t quite as square as hoped for and that the original balcony was more than 4 inches off-level in certain places, making replacement work a bit trickier. Interestingly, Caprari said four of the original vertical load-bearing support beams were cut sections of steel railroad track, later discovered to be in good condition! The new steel structure has been encased in painted wood to meet architectural specs and is expected to last for centuries. Unfortunately, Caprari and his expert team found a good deal of dry rot, the result of years of neglect and poor waterproofing. Nevertheless, Caprari says the project was exceptionally challenging and that it was a pleasure to be part of such an important historic restoration project. Going forward, Commissioner Dyer said the county is investigating replacing the US Hotel roof and HVAC system and that it intends to be a good steward of one of Jackson County’s most-treasured buildings.
Featured image: At US Hotel from l-r: Mayor Paul Becker, City Administrator Jeff Alvis, Commissioner Rick Dyer, and City Councilor Brad Bennington.