Plan to renovate historic Taylor property will be submitted to council committee for approval
By James Heffernan -- firstname.lastname@example.org
WINCHESTER -- The city is moving forward with plans to take over the crumbled Taylor Hotel property after developer Denver Quinnelly failed to provide an acceptable plan for its rehabilitation.
In a letter to Quinnelly dated Sept. 9, and made available to the media on Monday, city Zoning and Inspections Administrator Vincent Diem says Quinnelly's latest plans to demolish and remove the rear and middle portions of the building while stabilizing the hotel portion "will not render the building as being either fit or habitable [and] would not abate the blighting influence on the public's welfare by retaining an empty shell of a historic landmark at the core of Old Town Winchester and within the Central Business District."
Diem and his staff have drafted their own plan for the property, beginning with stabilization work that is scheduled to be completed this month. The city would then acquire the historic building, which predates the Civil War, through eminent domain and proceed with renovations using contractors or by selling it to another developer.
The plan will be presented to the City Council's planning and development committee on Sept. 22, the letter states. If it is forwarded to the full council for approval, a public hearing will be held on Oct. 13 at 7 p.m. at Rouss City Hall.
Quinnelly's Lafayette Plaza LLC bought the property at 119-129 N. Loudoun St. in 2007, with plans to convert it into a mix of upscale shops and condominiums. Soon after, the building's roof collapsed.
The property has since suffered from neglect. The walls, balcony and other structural elements are only temporarily supported, there are several broken windows and the structure lacks certain utilities. It still sits vacant and has been deemed unsafe by the city fire marshal.
In June, officials determined that the property meets the city's definition of blight.
"Tourists, citizens, and business owners alike are reminded daily of the unsightly appearance of the property," the city claims. "Surrounded by two heavily traveled pedestrian paths and a public alley, the current conditions are precarious and therefore dangerous to personal health and safety.
"Openings in the exterior and missing roof elements have become attractive to pigeons, which in turn introduce excreta and other matter into a heavily traveled pedestrian walkway."
Quinnelly, who has fallen on hard times since Ricketts Construction Co. went belly-up in late 2007, has been in negotiations with city officials for the past several months on the Taylor Hotel restoration. The developer presented two spot blight abatement plans in August, but both were rejected, in part due to doubt over funding for the project. The city had requested a letter of credit or surety bond for $2 million to cover the expected costs.
Ervin Construction Corp. has obtained a permit and begun the emergency repairs outlined in a July 28 report from local engineering firm Structural Concepts Inc.
Neither Quinnelly nor his attorney, Clifford L. "Clay" Athey Jr., of Front Royal, could be reached for comment Monday.