The Old Hotel made the news again this week as the current owner reached terms with the city granting him the next 2 months (until the end of the year) to make repairs to the building in return for the city agreeing to stop the current foreclosure action on the building. Part of the deal was to allow a thorough inspection of the building by the city — including an evaluation by a structural engineer — in order to establish the condition of the building. Determining the condition is critical for the city as it wrestles with the question of whether to seek court action to tear the building down, seek to foreclose on the property, or work with the owner to make the building economically viable again.
The saga of the old hotel goes way back to when the upper floors of the building were first condemned in 1979. Since that time some $500,000 in liens have been placed against the property by the county court for the failure of the former owner to fix public safety deficiencies. Over the last couple of years the current owner was trying to sell the building “as is” rather than seeking to repair it and fill it with tenants. However, after two or three deals fell through, the owner still had the liens to deal with and was facing a recent decision of the City Council to foreclose on his property.
The combination of those factors led the current owner to come to City Council and ask for Council’s consideration to put a stop to the pending foreclosure action against him in order to give him a few more months to take a run at repairing the hotel. He told Council that he had been in the “sell” mode for years but now he’s ready to be in the “fix” mode. After much deliberation, city staff and Council agreed to allow him until the end of the year to prove his intent to actually start to rehabilitate the building.
The owner indicated that he would have the roof replaced in October and then he planned to shift his attention to the interior of the building where he would clear out debris and remove non-loading bearing walls so that he could begin to bring prospective tenants through to show and market the building.
The owner acknowledged that he will need to replace the windows and repair the brick masonry — which he reports he’s planning to do early next year.
The plans sound good but the proof will be in the progress of the work. Seeing the worker on the roof yesterday is a good sign that the owner intends to honor his word. The building needs a lot of repair work — probably in the neighborhood of $1 million dollars — so it could take some time to develop a business plan to make that figure work.
The question that the inspection should help answer is whether the building has enough time left in it.