53 apartments planned for old Congress Hotel


The historic Congress Hotel at 304 W. Franklin St., vacant for the past several years, would be converted to a 53-unit apartment house for low- and moderate-income residents if a local development group can obtain funds for the project.

Kernan Restoration Inc., a group headed by Thomas Dowling of Metropolitan Construction Co., has received preliminary approval from the city's Department of Housing and Community Development to use $950,000 in funds from the city's Rental Rehabilitation program, according to development director David Elam.

The group, which has a contract to purchase the building, also would use $650,000 of its own funds and $2.8 million from the Community Development Financing Corp., bringing the total cost of the project to $4.4 million.

CDFC representatives are scheduled to meet tomorrow to consider its loan request.

Located just west of Howard Street and originally known as the Kernan Hotel, the 86-year-old building was closed several years ago after a group that previously announced plans to upgrade it ran into financial difficulties.

Mr. Elam said Mr. Dowling's group, which also includes partners Dryden Hall and John Young, plans to convert the upper six floors to efficiencies and one- and two-bedroom apartments renting for $340 to $500 per month. The building also would contain 16,000 square feet of office and retail space on its lower levels, he said.

The architectural firm of Gottlieb Fostel prepared preliminary plans for the conversion, but that firm is no longer in operation and a final architect has not been named, Mr. Elam said. If Mr. Dowling's group acquires the building by early January as planned, work could begin within 30 days and would take nine to 12 months to complete, he said.

Mr. Elam said the conversion would support the city's revitalization efforts along Howard Street because it would transform a vacant building into an occupied one, and the residents would be able to take advantage of the light-rail line beginning operation half a block way in 1992. "I think it would be a big plus," he said.

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