There soon could be a hotel in downtown Leavenworth.
That's according to John Peterson, who plans to sell property he owns at 405 Choctaw St. to a hotel developer.
Peterson said he needed permission to tear down an old warehouse building on the site in order for the sale to go through. The demolition request had to be reviewed by the Leavenworth Preservation Commission. And members of the commission voted Wednesday not to object to a demolition permit.
The commission reviewed the request because the old warehouse, or former Clark Mechanical, building lies within the environs of the Downtown Historic District and the Leavenworth County Courthouse, which are on the National Register of Historic Places. Commissioners had to determine if the demolition request would encroach upon, damage or destroy the environs of historic properties.
Peterson told the commissioners he loves old buildings, noting he had redeveloped the old Ward's building in downtown Leavenworth.
But he said the warehouse building at 405 Choctaw St. has structural, environmental and safety issues.
If the building were allowed to stand, the only viable option would be to use it for industrial storage, he said.
He believes the original portion of the building was constructed in the 1890s and originally used by a company that built ice machines.
He said a smaller, red brick building that's also on the property will not be torn down.
Peterson said there is arsenic in the ground at the site. And because of this, there are restrictions on the property that prevent it from being used for things such as housing. But a hotel would be permitted because it would involve short-term occupancy.
Debra Bates-Lamborn, who operates a downtown business, spoke during the Preservation Commission's public hearing on the issue. She said she hates to hear the word "demolition" when talking about the downtown area.
"If it's downtown, it's historic," she said.
She said she hates to see the warehouse building torn down. But at the same time, she sees where Peterson is coming from because of the money it would take to fix up the building.
Local business owner Louis Klemp said "there's not much that can be done with that building that is not a massive expense."
He said he hates to see the building go but it's time for that to happen.
R.D. Johnson, a downtown business owner, said he hopes a hotel goes in at the site on Choctaw Street.
"We need economic development in this town," he said.
Five members of the Leavenworth Preservation Commission were in attendance. Four of them voted for a motion that found the demolition would not encroach upon, damage or destroy the local historic environs. One member, Joshua Dunn, abstained.
Page 2 of 2 - Jane Gies, a member of the commission, said the commissioners generally don't vote to allow a building to be demolished. But she said it can't be established the building on Choctaw Street is significant to the history of Leavenworth. And she said it certainly doesn't add to the historical environs.
Acting City Planner Roger Denton said the issue still will be reviewed at the state level. If an objection is raised, the matter will come before the Leavenworth City Commission.
Peterson said construction on the hotel could begin this summer.
He told members of the Preservation Commission that he has plans for purchasing the former Lee's Furniture building in downtown Leavenworth and turning it into what he described as a boutique hotel.