Washington Evening Journal
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Washington, IA 52353
After years of fundraising and grant-seeking, the Washington Chamber of Commerce has ended its efforts to kick start a restoration project on a historical site in Washington, dubbed “Operation save the Captain’s Table.”
Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Michelle Redlinger said the group simply could not raise the necessary funds.
“Ultimately, the project didn’t fit the parameters of some of the larger grant funds that we were pursuing,” she said. “We just felt that the gap in what we had raised in commitments and the estimate of the project was too great a risk.”
The Chamber had planned to use the site as a new office space, as did Main Street Washington, before the project fell through.
While the Chamber raised $750,000, Redlinger said estimates for the project’s eventual cost came out around $2.5 million, leaving the Chamber far short of the cash required without grant support.
Building owner Jeff Hazelett of Elliott Realty, said the building would likely be torn down to repurpose the site commercially.
“We have started working with a couple of different companies that are interested in coming to Washington,” he said. “That is still one of the absolute best locations in all of Washington when it comes to historical settings. That’s probably the avenue that we’ll start to go down as we look for someone that can repurpose the site.”
Hazelett said restoring or remodeling the building was likely off the table for private companies, making demolition the most likely fate of the Captain’s Table building.
“A private developer cannot go in and try to renovate and do something to use it again,” he said. “It’s beyond that point, it’d cost too much to be able to do it. You’d need to be able to utilize either local or state money in some fashion, and a private developer wouldn’t get some of the things that the Chamber could get.”
Redlinger said she had mixed feelings about the project’s cancellation. While it was designed to be been a boon for local businesses, she said it risked trading off with other community projects.
“One of the initial goals with this project was to ensure that if we were to rehabilitate it, we were going to use as many local contractors as possible and kind of make it organic,” she said. “We knew that there were some significant efforts being raised in the community for the new YMCA, the new auditorium had just completed, and hospice is doing a big fundraising effort. With the pursuit of this project, we didn’t want to compete with them.”
That goal to stay local ended up complicating the plans and cutting off some fundraising options. While federal and state grants may have been available, Redlinger said they would have traded off with the Chamber’s control over contractors.
“Because we’re the Chamber of Commerce and we’re here to support our local businesses, we probably took a different approach than if we weren’t so focused on if it supported the community,” she said. “It’s kind of sad, but we did our best to get input from the community. Sometimes we’re able to save certain buildings and projects, and sometimes it’s time to start something new.”