MASON CITY | Back in 2006, Wright on the Park held its first meeting to discuss how to rehabilitate the Historic Park Inn, the world-renowned hotel in downtown Mason City.
Since then, it's taken numerous funding mechanisms to accomplish that. But on Feb. 27, the nonprofit announced the compliance period for federal, state and new market tax credits had closed.
According to Jean Marinos, finance director on Wright on the Park's board of directors, this was an important development — it indicates the nonprofit had properly used most, if not all, of just over $11 million in tax credits, essentially allowing the group to "burn" the hotel's mortgage.
"It took a major portion of my life," Marinos said about the entire process for applying for and complying with the different streams of tax credits. "If you come into my office and look around, all the shelves are filled with the Wright on the Park stuff."
In total, Marinos said Wright on the Park received roughly $3.5 million in state tax credits, $3.7 million in federal tax credits and $3.9 million in new market tax credits.
All three funding streams differ, but officials stressed the complexity of applying for that money — and meeting numerous compliance benchmarks over a period of several years — means multiple parties have to be heavily involved throughout the process.
Federal and state historic tax credits have helped numerous businesses in Mason City, allowing business owners to restore older buildings. New market tax credits, however, are allocated to communities based on low-income census tracts that could benefit from increased economic development, officials said.
Dan Robeson, president of Iowa Business Growth and a board member of Iowa Community Development, commended business and community partners for working together for several years to help restore the Historic Park Inn.
Robeson believes renovations to the hotel has helped to revitalize the downtown area, noting new businesses that have opened and sculptures on display.
He grew up in Nora Springs, and added the hotel has been a notable part of Mason City for years.
"It was a tourism draw even when the roof was leaking, and it was a vacant building," Robeson said of the building, which is the last Frank Lloyd Wright-designed hotel in the world.
Both Marinos and Robeson said the use of tax credits is vital to helping restore historic buildings in downtown areas like Mason City.
Marinos is thankful for the local community support from the Chamber of Commerce, local businesses and banks. But buy-in for the project also extended outside of town, she said.
"We couldn’t have done it without the historic tax credits because it was part of our whole system at setting up the funding," she said. "We were really lucky, there were a lot of people at the state level who were enthusiastic and knew the significance (of the hotel) for not just Mason City, but the state of Iowa."
A celebration is being planned for next month, where interested stakeholders will be recognized for their involvement and contributions to the hotel's restoration, Marinos said.
There's still work to be done, she said. Within the next month, the Wright on the Park board will meet to discuss how ownership of the hotel should be structured, along with how it needs to be managed, according to Marinos.
The Historic Park Inn continues to be busy, 24/7, 365 days a year, Marinos said. The nonprofit says the hotel has attracted visitors from across the U.S. and over 66 countries.
"It’s not a matter of letting it rest for a while," she said. "It’s going to need new carpet some time."
But according to Robeson, the current state of the Historic Park Inn and its surrounding buildings is a testament to multiple groups of people who had a vision, and were willing to take a risk.
"To do a project like the Wright on the Park project, you have to have a lot of partnerships and people looking down the road to see something that’s not proven," he said.