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Peter Lim­burger, Christopher Summer, and Jack Lovinger at the final­ization of the Keefer House pur­chase. Col­legian| Julia Mullins

Con­struction on the his­toric Keefer House is now underway to transform the iconic building into a 32-room bou­tique hotel, fea­turing three store­fronts and a restaurant.

C.L. Real Estate LLC, a building developer based out of Peru, Illinois, pur­chased the His­toric Keefer House from Hillsdale’s Tax Increment Finance Authority Oct. 25.

TIFA Chair Christopher Sumnar said he and many others have been working very hard to prepare for this day.

“We couldn’t be more excited. It really has been a lot of work up to this point. It’s nice to have this day today,” Sumnar said.

Sumnar credited TIFA board members Jeffrey and Marcy Horton, local business owners, city offi­cials, and C.L. Real Estate with helping to prepare for the sale.

Brant Cohen ’18 is an asso­ciate for C.L. Real Estate LLC and said he is very grateful for the Hillsdale com­munity.

“It’s the out­pouring of com­munity support that I’ve found in Hillsdale to be unbe­lievable, and that’s what today was,” Cohen said. “These members and these offi­cials have all been in the com­munity for most their lives, or at least have been trans­plants who have fallen in love with it, and being a student at the college for four years, I have that same kind of passion.”

Peter Lim­berger, prin­ciple owner of C.L. Real Estate LLC, said up until this point, there have been many dis­cus­sions about the project, but now, he is looking forward to starting the con­struction process.

“Today is the starting point, now the clock starts to click to get this done within about 1.5 years or so,” Lim­berger said. “We really want to open in 2020, so today, the clock starts; we have to work, and we are moving.”

Lim­berger said C.L. Real Estate believes in small Midwest towns and has the goal of focusing on great his­torical aspects of buildings to make them greater in the future.

“Let’s find the big things in small towns and bring things back in small towns that were fab­ulous 100 years ago,” Lim­berger said.

Aaron Holverson, project architect from Gary W. Anderson Archi­tects, said his primary goal will be to maintain the his­torical aspects of the building but make accom­mo­da­tions to turn the Keefer into a modern hotel.

The main floor will feature a lounge, dining hall, reception area, and an outdoor event space. The second and third floors will each have 16 guest rooms and iden­tical floor plans.

Holverson said the exterior of the building will be pre­served, but people can expect to see minimal changes on the main, second and third floors.

“There are ele­ments of the second and third floor that will be main­tained, but as it’s arranged now, it’s not arranged or room-sized and laid out to accom­modate what people would expect in a modern hotel,” Holverson said, “There will be quite a few changes upstairs to accom­modate modern hotel con­ve­niences.”

Matt Robinson, project manager from C.L. Real Estate LLC, echoed Holverson and said he hopes to pre­serve the his­toric feel of the building while also trans­forming the space into a fully func­tioning hotel.

“The vision in the space is to elevate the space to a con­tem­porary feel but still feel elegant,” Robinson said.

Lim­berger said he truly wants to make this building a des­ti­nation site for both the local and regional pop­u­lation to enjoy.

TIFA board member Mike Parney said his mother was a waitress at the Keefer in the 1940s. He said she told him stories about the train porters who carried in pas­senger luggage and would stop in for a meal. Parney said he is excited to see the Keefer’s doors open again.

“This will be an attraction, some place for people to come for no other reason other than to stay here,” Parney said. “It’s just a good thing for everybody.”

Sumnar said he is excited to see how the Keefer impacts downtown Hillsdale.

“You can talk about this as a cat­alyst for downtown, and it is, but it’s one that strengthens an already vibrant downtown,” Sumnar said. “I don’t want that to detract from the business owners who have already been com­mitted to really make this an incredible and lively downtown com­pared to a lot of other com­mu­nities in our size-range.”

Cohen said he walked by the Keefer when he was a student at Hillsdale College and hoped one day it would be restored. Now, the wait is finally over.

“I’m not the only one excited,” Cohen said. “Having 30 or 40 people here in this lobby was amazing, and to see that, really gets me more excited for what we’re gonna be able to do with in the future, here with the Keefer.”