New lighting tested for Marquette exterior

Thursday, January 9, 2003

While the environmental cleanup of the former Marquette Hotel still awaits delayed state approvals, new owners Prost Builders already want to see how the historic building will look from the outside when it reopens at the end of 2003.

Representatives of a Columbia, Mo., electrical and engineering design company were in Cape Girardeau Wednesday testing accent lighting they propose to mount on the building's exterior. Some of the 100- to 175-watt lamps would be hidden on a ledge 25 feet above the sidewalk. Other lighting would illuminate the Marquette's two garden towers.

"A lot of times we do this on a computer, but with an older building we like to see it," said Robert Ray, a department manager for Project Solutions.

Lighting will not be installed until the renovation is closer to completion.

Bill Whitlow, the project manager for Prost Builders, said the environmental cleanup can begin two weeks after the state approvals are received. Those approvals were applied for in April and were expected to be in by the end of 2002. The original target date for occupancy, this summer, has been moved back.

A Nebraska company is scheduled to clean up the asbestos and lead in the building. That could take 90 days, at which time the construction work can begin. A 55-person crew will do the work. Realtor Thomas M. Meyer, who handled the original sale and is the leasing agent for the building, said the company is attempting to use local tradesmen and suppliers.

Prost Builders bought the Marquette last August for $350,000. The previous owners, the Bullock family, once lived in the hotel and ran a piano sales business on the ground floor. But the Marquette's increasing deterioration led the city of Cape Girardeau to threaten tearing it down. Prost made the purchase after being awarded a 10-year, $2.39 million contract for state office space, primarily on the basis of the building's historic stature.

The cost of the renovation is approximately $6 million.

Last year, the 74-year-old building at the corner of Broadway and Fountain Street was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. The hotel at one time was owned by the same family who owned the Governor, the former Jefferson City hotel that also has been renovated for state office space.

Originally, part of the mezzanine was a ladies waiting area. Women were not allowed to be seated in the hotel restaurant unless accompanied by a man. Living quarters for permanent guests also were located on the mezzanine level.

Prost Builders intends to restore the tile- and plaster-walled lobby to approximate its original condition. Part of the first floor will be leased to stores. The owner hopes to attract a coffee shop or sandwich shop.

The company is considering two options for using the building's roof: either a rooftop restaurant or penthouse office space.

Meyer is asking anyone who has stories about the hotel or photos of it to contact him for a display that will be mounted in the lobby.

335-6611, extension 182

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