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Peoria's oldest hotel, built in 1918, could be demolished

Posted 6/14/17

By Philip Haldiman, Independent Newsmedia

Peoria’s first hotel and one of its oldest buildings is on the verge of coming under the wrecking ball while preservationists are looking for a …

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Peoria's oldest hotel, built in 1918, could be demolished

By Philip Haldiman, Independent Newsmedia

Peoria’s first hotel and one of its oldest buildings is on the verge of coming under the wrecking ball while preservationists are looking for a potential buyer who will save it.

Peoria issued an order of demolition on Dec. 16 for the three-story Edwards Hotel, 8325 W. Washington St., which opened in 1918 and served travelers long before the city was incorporated in 1954.

City staff last year determined the building in Old Town Peoria to be dangerous, in longstanding neglect and in a severe state of deterioration, with several code violations.

A deadline of Jan. 19 was set for demolition.

However, leading up to that date, preservationists worked with the city to stave off demolition, which has been put on hold to search for a potential buyer.

The property is owned by Porc Investments LLC, according to the Maricopa County Assessor’s website.

Historic Preservation Commission Chairwoman Lauren Allsopp said she and other preservationists are reaching out to potential buyers.

The building has problems but the structure is sound, Ms. Allsopp said.

“When we saw the demolition permit, we said, ‘Hey let’s stop and think about the options,’” she said. “If we can’t find a buyer then it will be demolished, but we are working diligently with the city to remedy this.”

The building was flagged as blighted based on the Enhanced Abatement Program, in which the city identifies and addresses structures with safety violations under the International Property Maintenance Code (IPMC), a publication that provides the necessary mechanism to address blighted or vacant properties.

Fifty states and the District of Columbia have adopted the publication at the state or jurisdictional level, according to IPMC’s website.

Jay Davies, Peoria Police Department deputy director, said the city routinely receives concerns about the condition, smell, appearance and safety of the hotel. It is also a hazard for first responders, he said.

Two inspections have been conducted in the last year that address the state of the structure.

The city hired Willdan Engineering as a third party contractor to inspect the building. Deputy Director of Development  Bob Goodhue said the assessment comprehensively reviewed the building and looked at all aspects of the structure concerning habitability. The assessment was issued on October 7, 2016, and did not contain a comprehensive structural analysis, but did reference other issues that made the structure uninhabitable and needed to be addressed, he said. The assessment found spongy wood floors and roof deck, as well as non-functioning plumbing, mechanical and electrical systems.

The other inspection was performed by Slaysman Engineering and issued April 10. Mr. Goodhue said the report only addressed the structural conditions, finding the building was not subject to imminent collapse, but that continued use of the structure would require additional structural analysis.

"In all, the reports do not conflict with each other," he said. "In combination, they provide a complete preliminary analysis of the entire structure, which includes structural, electrical, plumbing, mechanical, and general health and safety."

In searching for a potential buyer, the city has not set a date for the Edwards Hotel to be demolished.

Mr. Davies said if there are obstacles with deadlines, as in a case like this, the city will delay demolition if a reasonable solution can be found.

The Edwards Hotel is a brick building with stuccoed roof and exterior sleeping porches. It later became an apartment building after the 1960s, but the property has been an eyesore and shuttered for at least 10 years.

Preservation consultant Roger Brevoort has been working with Ms. Allsopp to save the building.

He and Ms. Allsopp are members of the Arizona Preservation Foundation, which works to preserve the state’s historical, archaeological, architectural and cultural legacy.

“I’m optimistic about it being saved,” Mr. Brevoort said. “Hopefully a new buyer is willing to restore it in the context of the adjacent lots, as part of a retail mix to help downtown.”

Locally, the Peoria Arizona Historical Society works to prevent the endangerment of buildings like the Edwards Hotel.

However, the group has been inactive for the last year, until a couple weeks ago. Newly elected President Kevin Kosier said the Edwards Hotel is part of the city’s character and demolition should be avoided.

“The Peoria Arizona Historical Society is excited about the possibility of the Edwards Hotel being restored and not torn down,” Mr. Kosier said. “I don’t know all the details, but we would like to help save the hotel. Saving a piece of Peoria’s history, like the hotel, is one of our goals.”

Resident Philip Allsopp spoke at an April 12 Historic Preservation Commission meeting in favor of preserving the Edwards Hotel and re-purposing it for something vital to the 21st Century.

Just because a building does not happen to meet today’s standards, does not mean it is not worth something, he said.

“Demolition is a very easy thing to do, but think hard about the level of visual diversity that removing this structure will have,” he said. “To the city, these buildings are historic markers of where we all came from and what we did.”

Historic Preservation Commissioner Linda Spencer also stated at the meeting there is little in Old Town that still reflects the city’s history.

“The Edwards Hotel was the first hotel in Peoria and next year it will be 100 years old,” she said. “While it may not have beautiful architecture, it is part of our history and we lose a lot if we don’t look to try to save it.”