Harbor could be razed in spring

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The new owners of the Harbor Hotel have begun planning a mixed-use project that will replace the aging building.

GCP-Steamboat LLC, which includes local Realtor Jim Cook, recently purchased the hotel for $2.95 million, according to records kept by the Routt County Clerk and Recorder's Office.

In the spring, the group likely will demolish the building, which was built in 1939, in the spring, Cook said.

The plan to raze the structure has sparked opposition from residents and city officials concerned it will hurt efforts to designate the area from Seventh to 12th streets as a national historic district.

The hotel, built in international style -- an offshoot of art deco -- originally was a motor court, with three buildings that eventually were linked, expanded and remodeled.

Architects and engineers found serious structural problems in the building, including unmatched floor levels and several large concrete columns that had been removed from the basement, Cook said.

Engineers have estimated it would cost nearly $3 million to make the existing building structurally sound, he said.

Still, the new owners agreed to have a historic structures assessment done on the building, which should help clarify renovation possibilities and strengthen requests for grants and tax credits available for preservation projects.

The assessment is under way, and Cook expects the first report soon. However, he and other owners are not wavering from plans to demolish the building.

The assessment, "is mainly, I think, to have that information on file and kind of set a precedent for other buildings that actually may be historic and worth preserving," he said.

The Steamboat Springs Historic Preservation Program has put on hold its application for a national historic district downtown, said Laureen Schaffer, a historic preservation specialist with the city.

"(Demolition) is certainly something that will have an impact on downtown and any historic district," she said. "We just have to see what happens."

The new owners bought the hotel from the Harbor Hotel Group, which bought it in 2002 from longtime owner George Hussey for $3.9 million. The building has not operated as a hotel since that sale.

The city's historic preservation ordinance allows the city to schedule a public hearing within 28 days of when developers file for a demolition permit.

Depending on the outcome of that hearing, which will focus on historical issues, the Historic Preservation office can request a cooling-off period of as many as 90 days for discussions between the city and developers. The buyers have accounted for that period in their development timeline, Cook said.

Tenants in the building are One Stop Ski Shop and Brauns Bar & Grill. The new owners have given the ski shop a lease through the next ski season. Brauns owners haven't yet established how long the restaurant will be in the building, owner Bill Lepper said.

The new hotel owners plan to present conceptual drawings for a mixed-use building to Main Street Steamboat's design review committee in August. The owners will be seeking feedback from the committee on the project, which will include residential, retail and possibly some public space, Cook said.

"We're very excited to move forward on this," he said. "We're excited about the site, the potential it offers and what it means to creating an economy sustainable to downtown, which I think is the most important goal of all."

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