The Time has come Up & Coming Weekly saw it coming as the publication has on a number of downtown issues. This time it is the ultimate and final demise of the Prince Charles Hotel. The old girl has run her course and the outcome, called for by UCW writers as far back as three years ago, is now clearly foreseeable.
Of course there are those that want to deny the hotel’s death rattle, continue compressions, rush the building EMTs to her bedside and put her on life support. But the inevitable is at hand. Have the wrecking ball standing by and advise John Chen to get the family together. Of course Chen may not be the owner in a few weeks and if that should be so then all bets are off. Latest news is that the county, at the city’s direction, is planning to serve foreclosure papers on Chen and have the hotel sold at public auction. Should that be the case and the building is sold, another chapter, in a litany of chapters about the Prince Charles Hotel will begin.
My bet is that the auction will not find any suitable bidders except Chen.
Chen has tried the patience of Fayetteville’s long tolerant city fathers and city manager enough. Now the condition of the building has deteriorated to the point that if Chen continues to hide in his New York City bunker, refusing to respond to telephone calls and emails, he may return here one day to find his Prince Charles Hotel has become the Prince Charles parking lot. There’s the matter of fines and other invoices from the city that have not been satisfied. The latest is the disconnection of the building’s electricity which has created a serious fire issue. Before that the building began shedding its masonry in large chunks offering adventure and excitement for those who would brave the north side of that section of Hay Street.
Let’s get serious about the Prince Charles Hotel. First of all, the building is currently Chen’s problem. It is not the Fayetteville City Council’s problem, at least not yet but the city must very soon adopt the old building and its associated issues as its own or put it on the auction block as announced. As has been carefully pointed out in the past, Chen knew or should have known all of the troubles surrounding the hotel when he made his ill-advised but successful bid to buy it.
The hotel, for reasons that are somewhat obscure to me, is on the Historical Register. That means that changes to the building’s exterior must comply with state and city rules for such structures. That regulation is where Chen and city government first crossed swords. But needed attention to exterior matters was only given lip service by Chen. Things got worse.
Tenants were evacuated due to fire-code violations. Today the people that care about our city have had enough of John Chen and his obstinacy. If a commercial building, apartments or residential structure in Fayetteville were to be in such poor and unsafe condition as the Prince Charles Hotel the city would move to demolish the offending edifice and would send the property owner the bill for the demolition costs.
The hotel will receive a life extension because it is on the National Register of historic buildings. That does not mean the life extension will be forever. The hotel is also in the city’s historic district which counts for something although it should not. According to Bruce Daws, Fayetteville’s historic properties manager, a procedure to demolish a building on the historic register is protracted and fraught with obstacles to prevent the needed execution. A certificate of appropriateness must be prepared and presented to the city’s Historic Resources Commission. That organization does look askance at any effort to tear down Fayetteville’s old buildings. But it does happen.
A case for the demolition has to be made that can override subjective arguments to let it stand.
If in the Historic Resouurce Commission’s infinite wisdom the decision is life rather than letting the building ride the equivalent of the death-house gurney, what use can be made of the derelict building? It has failed a sufficient number of times as a hotel, dare we say every time, and to the point that all should accept that it cannot function successfully as an accommodation source. Gut it and build upscale condos or apartments is another poorly considered idea that would go nowhere with credit providers. Maybe a minimum fix up and let the homeless live there. Perfect. It would be magnet for the under the bridge dwellers right in the heart of downtown.
Perhaps it could be made into an office building. Maybe it could, but the cost would far exceed that of a same size new building and then there’s the still unsold PWC building where a line of buyers is yet to form.
If the save-old-downtown-structures crowd continues to have their way and say the rest of us will be required to involuntarily tolerate this wart on the city’s nose. But one day sanity and practicality will prevail over sentimentality and a higher and better use will be given to the ground now occupied by the Prince Charles Hotel. Let us hope that day is soon.
Photo: The sidewalk in front of the Prince Charles Hotel is blocked because pieces of the building’s facade have been falling. The historic building may be up for demolition.