Wednesday, August 31, 2005
The demolition of the Harbor Hotel has been delayed by 90 days, but the Historic Preservation Advisory Commission can do little else to preserve the historic downtown building.
During a meeting Wednesday night, the preservation commission determined that the Harbor Hotel, which sits at Lincoln Avenue and Seventh Street, was historically significant under three criteria -- historical importance, architectural importance and geographic importance.
The preservation commission also set the maximum time of 90 days for a waiting period after a demolition permit is pulled. Commission members hope the time will allow the owners, who are represented by Realtor Jim Cook, to re-examine their plans for demolition and allow staff to assist with finding any financial incentives for restoration and rehabilitation of the building.
"In terms of a significance, I can't think of something that is going to have as huge of an impact. It is almost a third or half of the street block," Preservation Commissioner Michelle Desoer said.
The preservation commission cannot deny a demolition permit, but it does have a right to institute a waiting period for any building 50 years or older scheduled for demolition.
The developers have pulled a demolition permit for the Harbor Hotel, but they still need to get city approval for their development plans. Those plans call for replacing the Harbor Hotel with a mixed-use building that wraps retail spaces around the corner and has residential units in the rear of the building.
Desoer worried that the destruction of the building would hurt the downtown district's chances of being named to the National Historic Registry, which requires a certain number of historic buildings in a specific area.
Historic preservation specialist Laureen Schaffer said the size and age of the building would be an important element to a downtown historic designation.
"It would be hard to make a district go from Seventh Street to Tenth Street without this building. The district's boundaries would have to change," she said.
Schaffer noted that the building was one of the last commercial buildings to display the International Style of architecture and was a tribute to the town's history of tourism and the age of automobile tourism.
The hotel was built in 1939, a year after the Cabin Hotel burned down.
"The building has been referred to as historic for years. It is a downtown landmark," Schaffer said. "It is reflective of the character and economics of tourism and its development in Steamboat Springs."
Cook said restoring the building would not be economically feasible and that developers should not be held accountable for Main Street Steamboat Springs' desire to create a historic district.
"I don't think you understand the economics, and I don't expect you to," Cook told the preservation commission. "The restoration of this building into any kind of useable structure and then what the end use will be, will never pay for itself."
One resident and downtown business owner, Peter Van De Carr, said it was time for the building to go down and for a more vibrant one to replace it.
"I think this has needed to go for a very long time. I think the new project is very exciting," Van De Carr said.
Townie Anderson, a Main Street Steamboat Springs member who has significant experience restoring historic buildings, said the possibility of demolition points to the city's need for stronger regulations.
"This isn't Jim Cook's fault. This is our fault. The Harbor Hotel could be a turning point in the community in recognizing the value of historic preservation," Anderson said.
Anderson thinks a restored Harbor Hotel would be a signature downtown building. He also pointed to new buildings in the downtown area, such as the Riverside and Ski and Bike Kare buildings, which he said one day could outnumber historic buildings.
"If there are more of those than historic (buildings), our downtown is going to look very, very different than it does now. It won't have the draw that we are able to attract people with," he said.
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