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Don Bosco's Logan Lutgen 

Quartets deliver singing Valentines in barbershop harmony

WATERLOO – Chocolates and rose bouquets made Valentine’s Day special for many couples Wednesday. But for a grand gesture, it didn’t get any more romantic — or blush-worthy — than receiving a singing valentine.

Two quartets from the Proud Image Chorus traveled throughout the Cedar Valley delivering their version of true love. Nothing says “I love you” — or elicits more blushes and tears — than such heartfelt tunes as “Heart of My Heart” or “Let Me Call You Sweetheart” delivered in four-part harmony.

Singers were clad in tuxedos and presented each recipient with a long-stemmed rose and candy. Performances took place at schools, stores, restaurants, businesses and offices in a 30-mile radius of Waterloo and Cedar Falls.

“We had some tremendous reactions. One fiancée was crying along with her fiancé who walked in with the quartet at one place. Another lady blushed deeply and really enjoyed the singing, but wouldn’t take a picture with them because she said she didn’t have on makeup,” said Jons Olsson, Proud Image Chorus president.

While some wiped away tears, one valentine at an area bank asked her quartet to sing a song for her younger colleagues, as well. Although quartets seldom have extra time in their busy Valentine’s Day schedule for special requests, they stepped in the lobby and sang another song.

“The young ladies were just thrilled, even though barbershop isn’t their kind of music and they hadn’t probably heard it before,” said Olsson, who drove and served as “roadie” for one of the quartets.

Proud Image Chorus members enjoy getting dressed up and delivering the Valentine’s Day messages of love. Some singers take the day off or plan a vacation day from work to participate in a quartet.

“We’d love to have another quartet or two, but it’s hard to do. There are so many tenors and baritones available, but not as many leads and basses. But if we had more orders, I’m sure I could twist a few arms — and I’d like to sing in one of the quartets again myself,” Olsson said.

Singing Valentines have been delivered since the Proud Image Chorus was chartered in 1979. The award-winning a capella group is a member of the Barbershop Harmony Society.

St. Mary's Church makes 'endangered' list

WATERLOO — The former St. Mary’s Church and School has been listed among the state’s “most endangered” historic structures by a preservation advocacy group.

Preservation Iowa designated the vacant and decaying buildings on the corner of East Fourth and Parker streets in Waterloo as one of 13 statewide historic properties at risk of disappearing.

“The longer that sits there the worst shape it gets in,” said City Councilman Pat Morrissey, who serves as a liaison to the city’s historic preservation commission. “I’m definitely concerned it’s going to come down because nothing’s happening there.”

Water was allowed to collect in the basements of the buildings, which led to black mold. Flooring has warped, Broken windows have left the structures at the whim of the elements.

“Now there are many in the community calling for the buildings to be bulldozed and the property to be developed,” the Preservation Iowa report stated.

Preservation Iowa is a nonprofit organization that uses the endangered building list to shine a spotlight on historic buildings in need. The listing does not qualify projects for funding or put any requirements on property owners.

St. Mary’s Church and School was built in 1922, originally serving many immigrants settling in that eastside area of the community. Waterloo’s famous five Sullivan brothers, who were killed during World War II while serving aboard the same U.S. Navy ship, worshipped and went to school there.

A convent and rectory were added to the property in 1956. The last nuns moved out of the convent in 1984, and it was converted into senior housing known as St. Mary’s Villa.

St. Mary’s Church stopped holding services in 2003 when several parishes were combined and the school was renamed Queen of Peace. The Cedar Valley Catholic Schools Board of Education then closed the school and shut down St. Mary’s Villa for financial reasons in June 2006.

All of the buildings were sold Dec. 29, 2006, to Henry L.N. Anderson of Los Angeles for $475,500. But the property has remained vacant while Anderson has failed to maintain or pay property taxes on the property.

The Black Hawk County Treasurer’s Office notes unpaid taxes and special assessments for city code enforcement actions have grown to nearly $108,000. Anderson has recently indicated his willingness to pay a portion of those taxes, but no money has been received as of Wednesday.

City Attorney Dave Zellhoefer said he is in the process of preparing an application to seize the property under Iowa Code Section 657A.

Should the city win its court case, taxpayers could be on the hook for demolition costs and City Council members could find themselves arbitrating between those who want the buildings saved and others who believe they should come down.

City engineering officials also indicated the rectory may need to be demolished for a Virden Creek levee project.

Cedar Falls zoning panel reviews two big hotel projects

CEDAR FALLS — Plans for two major hotel projects came before the Cedar Falls Planning and Zoning Commission for discussion Wednesday night.

Hawkeye Hotels, based in Coralville, presented plans for an 82,000-square-foot, 127-room six-story hotel at West First and Main Streets on the former site of the Broom Factory restaurant, now demolished, and the former Cedar Falls Chamber of Commerce building.

As proposed, the building would be the tallest in downtown Cedar Falls, about 18 feet taller than the average height of similar adjacent buildings, according to a city planning staff report.

Some commission members said they’d like the design to be more compatible with older existing buildings downtown but generally welcomed the project.

“I think it’s close to what’s required for downtown,” commission member Brian Arnston said. He said he’d like it have less of a “corporate” look, “but again, great redevelopment here.”

The property’s “been sitting there for 10 years, and it’s time for something to be there. It could really impact, and it’s going to change, downtown. This is a big project for all the business owners on that street,” Arnston said.

City staff recommended the project be coordinated with adjacent downtown flood levee work.

Om Patel, director of development for Hawkeye Hotels, said “We look forward to working with the city of Cedar Falls on this project.

Commission member LeaAnn Saul said the project essentially extends the Main Street Parkade across West First Street.

Holiday Inn & Suites

The commission also reviewed CF Gateway Park Inc.’s plans for a proposed Holiday Inn & Suites conference center northeast of Hudson Road and West Ridgeway Avenue, near the Hudson Road/U.S. Highway 20 interchange. It would be a four-story, 127-room facility with a 31,000 square foot conference center. A convention center facility was proposed for that site last March by Open Door Hospitality, a company of local hotelier Atul Patel, not related to Om Patel. Open Door would operate the facility. It also has an adjacent Best Western hotel.

City staff recommended its hotel and convention center signage comply with the U.S. Highway 20 corridor zoning and the building design include additional brick or stone.

Arnston said the project is “a very significant and substantial investment coming into town” and the first thing many visitors see coming into town on Highway 20.

Commission members took no action on either proposal; items were on the agenda for discussion only. The commission will take both of them up again in two weeks for a possible vote and recommendation to the City Council.

The commission also reviewed a proposal to relocate the former Cedar Falls Chamber building from the proposed Hampton Inn site to a location on East Fourth Street on developer Mark Kittrell’s River Place development for new offices for Cedar Falls Community Main Street. No action was taken; that proposal also will be taken up by the commission in two weeks.