Saturday, September 3, 2005
I live in Steamboat Springs and would like to express my deepest and sincerest concerns about a historic hotel that will be demolished by developers if someone does not stop them.
Having the new perspective of Hurricane Katrina, and the total destruction of not only historic buildings, but also all the homes of an enormous population, I can see the issue of historic preservation in a whole new light.
We have the luxury of demolishing buildings as we see fit, thinking we know what the future will hold and the effect that the demolition of a historic place will have on the future of our community. The people of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama didn't have that luxury. Hurricane Katrina did not distinguish between those buildings worth saving and those not worth saving. She simply destroyed everything in her path.
I see this as an opportunity for a conscientious developer to make history. Instead of destroying everything in his/their path along Lincoln Avenue, why not leave us with our "ugly duckling," The Harbor Hotel, and see if we can't make her into a swan. We have that luxury as well, to save our downtown area and achieve our long time goal of becoming a historic district.
This is an opportunity for a developer to go south and make history with innovative and new designs that people will want to save in the future. Here is an opportunity to make a brand new downtown district into a thriving and exciting place. I also see this as an opportunity for a community like Steamboat to come together. The Harbor Hotel is probably one of the most significant buildings in the downtown area, in design, in geographic location and in relation to the other buildings nearby. It was innovative in its time and is a large part of the history of our town. Newcomers don't necessarily see it as worth saving, but the people who grew up here can see beyond its limitations. It would be nice if we could make a decision that was based on integrity instead of economy.
I listened to someone tell me that the downtown area is deteriorating and if we don't demolish the Harbor Hotel we won't have a vibrant and exciting downtown district. In fact, I see just the opposite of that every day. There is constant foot traffic in the downtown area and shops and restaurants are thriving. I listened to this person say that without his new and exciting plan for the downtown area, the community was in danger of challenges from afar. What could be more exciting than restoring a building that inspired our town as a destination in the first place? If it wasn't for the Harbor Hotel, these developers may not ever have come here. What could be more exciting than having your town recognized as a historic district in the downtown area? Destination travel would take on a whole new meaning.
As far as I can tell, the choice of demolition over restoration is based completely on economics. They say that it would be too costly and they wouldn't be able to make enough money back fast enough to justify restoration.
Money is always available. The Harbor Hotel is eligible for local, state and national registration of a historic building. It is a landmark building already and with restoration, could be turned into an elegant and significant hotel.
As a hotel, it could be an inspiration for the revival of the downtown area that is apparently "in danger" The city of Steamboat Springs has offered the help of its staff to write grants and obtain tax incentives and reimbursements for restoration.
With the demolition of the Harbor Hotel, the distoric district will be unattainable.
In Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, the choices of preserving and restoring are no longer available.
Here's your big chance, Steamboat, to see your dreams come true. You can build a downtown area that will be worth saving in the future instead of destroying a downtown area that is worth saving now.