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Crumbling Lorain hotel could become upscale apartments

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LORAIN — The blighted former Spitzer Plaza Hotel may be saved from demolition.

Lorain Hotel Investors LLC, a company that includes Chicago-based T-2 Capital Management and Black River Landing developer James Louthen, wants to spend $10 million to convert the building into about 50 upscale apartments for residents 55 and older, a Monday news release said.

Spitzer attorney Anthony Giardini said in an interview that Louthen stayed in the 69-room hotel, which closed in 2005 due to a lack of business. Giardini said Louthen and a group of investors approached Spitzer Management Inc. in July about renovating the building.

“We didn’t seek him out. He sought us out,” Giardini said. “It’s a great project.”

Renovation is contingent on building developers obtaining $1.9 million in federal and state historic tax building credits from the Ohio Development Services Agency. City Council members on Monday delayed voting on a resolution supporting the application. Council support could help the application’s chances with the agency.

Council’s Building and Lands Committee will discuss the deal next Monday. A full Council vote is expected before the Sept. 30 application deadline.

The building, at 301Broadway at the East Erie Avenue intersection, has been an eyesore and, at times, a hazard due to bricks falling from a crumbling facade.

Council demanded building owner Alan Spitzer, a prominent businessman and president of Spitzer Great Lakes LTD Co., raze, renovate or sell the building. Lack of progress frustrated Council with former City Councilman Bret Schuster, D-4th Ward, referring to the building as a “piece of crap” last year.

Mayor Chase Ritenauer said last year that Spitzer was seeking about $1.9 million for the building and it needed between $3 million and $4 million in repairs. The building is valued at about $1 million, according to the Lorain County auditor’s website.

Giardini said some inside demolition would be necessary to convert hotel rooms into apartments, but no “significant” outside demolition would occur. Outside demolition could jeopardize the building’s status on the National Register of Historic Places and could damage the nearby Bascule Bridge.

Ritenauer said Monday he was “cautiously optimistic” about the plan. “There are a lot of things in any old building that could be problematic, but from what I’ve gathered the owner has done his due diligence,” he said.

Councilman Dennis Flores, D-2nd Ward, whose ward includes the building, said he was ambivalent about the proposal. Flores said he supported the concept of renovation, but wondered if it was doable given the condition of the building.

“I just hope they do what’s right,” he said.

Contact Evan Goodenow at 329-7129 or egoodenow@chroniclet.com. Follow him on Twitter at @egoodenowct.



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