A crew from New Horizons LLC, an environmental solutions company, dismantles the roofing at the Grand Hotel in downtown Waterloo, Iowa as part of the demolition of the structure on Tuesday, December 6, 2011. (RICK CHASE / Courier Staff Photographer)

WATERLOO, Iowa --- It was not so grand in the end.

Demolition crews descended on the former Grand Hotel this week to remove what had become an eyesore at a downtown gateway.

Peterson Contractors Inc., of Reinbeck, was killing the water service to the building at 300 W. Mullan Ave. Tuesday while workers with New Horizons, clad in white environmental suits, were pulling the remaining asbestos from building. Backhoes and other heavy equipment surrounded the building ready to tear it down.

"I have been humming (John) Mellencamp's 'Walls Come Tumbling Down' a lot the last two days," said Ken Nelson, one of several residents in the nearby Winterbottom Building lofts who had grown frustrated by demolition delays. "I'm just glad it's come to fruition and that the city finally found its big bottle of Visine to pour on the property.

"On a more serious note, we're all just relieved that after 2 1/2 years it's coming down," he added. "We'll be even more relieved if they don't turn it into another parking lot."

City Council members voted unanimously in July 2010 to buy the 100-room hotel and an adjoining lot for $800,000 from its California-based ownership group, 190 Orange Avenue Inc. PCI was awarded the $149,700 demolition contract last month, and is expected to remove it before the end of the month.

Community Planning and Development Director Noel Anderson has said the city hopes to market the cleared site for new construction, although no developer has stepped forward with a plan.

The condition of the former hotel was seen as detriment to development of the adjacent Cedar Valley TechWorks and downtown redevelopment projects.

The hotel was built in 1963 and has changed hands and names several times. Known as the Clayton House motel in the 1960s, it became the Twin Torch Inn in 1976, turned into the Rodeway Inn in 1988, briefly becoming a Howard Johnson motel in 1995 before rebranding as a Travel Host Inn. 190 Orange Avenue Inc. bought it in 2007.

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