Restore Park Inn, Wright expert says

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Note: Printed with Permission from The Globe-Gazette, article by John Skipper.
A nationally known expert on Frank Lloyd Wright architecture urged residents Tuesday to seize the opportunity to restore the former Park Inn hotel downtown.
"Other cities would kill to have the opportunity that Mason City already has," Jonathan Lipman, past president of the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy, told a group of preservation enthusiasts.
He later addressed the City Council, urging its support of a proposed project in which Heartland Properties, a division of Alliant Energy, has agreed to restore the building, which now houses the Chamber of Commerce office, and put upscale apartments on the second floor.
"Frank Lloyd Wright is unquestionably America's greatest architect," he said. "...The 'prairie period' was his most influential period and Mason City is a major focus of prairie school architecture.
When the Stockman House was moved in 1990, the New York Times ran a picture of it that took up about a half a page, Lipman said. "That tells you the interest there is nationally in Frank Lloyd Wright."
"Wright built six hotels. This is the only one still standing. You've got the real thing and you've got someone willing to restore it for you. I guarantee you, if you let this opportunity slip by, you'll be back in the New York Times again."
Lipman said a feature of Wright's architecture was "consecrated space" - creation of a central space in a dwelling, flooded by natural light. The natural light in the Park Inn was a skylight now in the possession of Dr. Robert McCoy of Mason City, he said. McCoy has offered to donate the skylight to the project.
"You have the actual glass available in your town at no cost to you. That doesn't happen all the time," Lipman said.
Dean Baumgardner, a vice president of Heartland Properties, told the group that Heartland works in communities served by Alliant with the intent of providing housing to middle income families. He said the Park Inn project would include making the building structurally sound, restoring the exterior facade, restoring the original hotel lobby, reopening stairwells and perhaps restoring the old dining room.
The building is owned by Les Nelson who has agreed to sell it to the Frank Lloyd Wright Conservancy, which would in turn sell it to Heartland.
Lipman sees it as a chance of a lifetime for Mason City. "Can you imagine if the Park Inn was a great work by Picasso, how you would feel about preserving it? Well, it is. It is the exact equivalent," he said.

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