Jan. 1, 2007

There may still be hope for former Lester Prairie hotel building

By Ivan Raconteur
Staff Writer

The historic building at 100 Maple Street South in Lester Prairie could see new life if owner Cory Schmidt has his way.

Schmidt told the city council Dec. 11 that he would like to convert the former hotel and nursing home into either condominiums or apartments.

The council agreed to put judgement on hold until February, to give Schmidt a chance to make repairs.

Schmidt said it would take three or four weeks to complete interior demolition, and told the council this could begin as soon as permits were approved.

“We can start right away. I have 15 guys ready to start,” Schmidt said.

“Why do you magically have people ready to go?” Mayor Eric Angvall asked.

Angvall expressed frustration at the fact that even though it made several attempts to contact him about the condition of the building, the city did not receive a response from Schmidt until just prior to the court-ordered deadline for completion of repairs.

“We have had the expense of taking this matter to court,” Angvall said.

Schmidt, who owns Schmidt Roofing and Remodeling, told the council that he spent “two years chasing hurricanes” and working in Florida, and said that was why the building was neglected.

The demolition permit has been issued, according to City Clerk Marilyn Pawelk.

Background information

Last September, City Building Inspector Kyle Christenson inspected the property and determined that it was a hazard to public safety.

In October, the council discussed the issue, and it was noted that the city had tried to contact Schmidt for months in order to address concerns about blight issues and the hazardous condition of the building.

The council directed City Attorney Jody Winters to file a court order for repairs.

That order was served Oct. 14, and gave Schmidt 60 days to complete repairs, or the city would have the right to raze or remove the hazardous building.

The deadline for completion of the repairs was Dec. 14.

Schmidt’s plan

Schmidt said the demolition will include removal of all lath and plaster down to the brick or block walls, and removal of electrical and plumbing fixtures.

Other planned improvements include upgrading the electrical service from 400 to 1,000 amp service, paving the parking lot, and possibly adding parking garages, Schmidt said.

All of the accessory buildings will be removed as part of the demolition process.

Prior to receiving permits for the demolition, Schmidt was required to provide a letter from a licensed structural engineer confirming that the structure is safe.

Schmidt said he is still doing market research to determine whether he will convert the building to condominiums or apartments.

“Right now, I am leaning toward pulling the front end off of the building,” Schmidt said, of the wooden structure that was added to the original brick building.

“We have room for 13 or 14 apartments, and maybe seven condos. The decision will be based on what is economically feasible, and what the market will bear,” Schmidt commented.

“It will take between one year and one-and-a-half years to complete the project, and that is being conservative,” Schmidt said, when asked how long he expects the project to take.

Police Chief Bob Carlson stated that there are still blight items on the property, including an old television, tires, and long grass and weeds on the east side of the building that need to be addressed.

The council approved putting judgement on the property on hold until February, with the stipulation that Schmidt present a preliminary plan to the planning commission in January, and a plan to the council in February.

“We should be fine with that,” Schmidt said.

“We would like to extend our apologies for the building being vacant for so long,” he added.

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