Excelsior hotel on its last leg
Developer gives council until Feb. 19 to decide
A proposed hotel in Excelsior may not have much life remaining.
The city council discussed the project again at the Jan. 22 meeting, in which developer and owner of the property told the council it had until Feb. 19 to decide if it will move forward.
“I think we’re at the end of the road here folks as far as design goes,” developer and owner Charlie James said.
The council decided to hold a special meeting Feb. 11 to receive comments from the Planning Commission and Heritage Preservation Commission on the new design elements from the recent design charrette — a of a group of stakeholders. Included in the charrette were former mayor Nick Ruehl, council members, developer and architect and representation from Planning Commission and Heritage Preservation Commission.
The commissions will discuss the design changes that surfaced at the charrette and offer comments to the council.
The Heritage panel has denied the Site Alteration Permit, and the council will have to decide if it wants to overturn that decision.
James says he’s a bit puzzled by that group’s comments of late.
“It’s kind of ironic when we first presented this project we were so sensitive to height and scale and how it related to the other buildings along Water Street,” James said. “Now where we’re at is ‘no, more mass.’”
The time and money spent, James says, should be reason enough to make a decision either way.
The updated design elements are actually making the mass and scale more apparent, according to architect Neil Weber. Without the step-backs, the 35-foot height along Water Street will add mass and scale, he says.
“Nowhere else in downtown Excelsior exists a building of 110-feet long at 35-feet high … you’re creating a wall right at the end of Water Street, which is exactly what we did not want to do with the design,” Weber said. “We’re not interested in doing it, it’s just simply wrong.”
Though, the step-backs on the lower levels are what council member Jen Caron believes don’t fit with the rest of Excelsior.
“When you start stepping back on other levels it starts looking a lot less ‘Excelsior,’” Caron said.
Council member Greg Miller said he believes the dynamics of the problem of mass and scale is difficult to sort.
“It’s an interesting problem with the perception of mass with what you did to reduce the perception of mass, but yet it’s been cited by other people as a non-HPC type of thing to do, so they’re conflicting,” Miller said.
The council has already approved the project in concept.
“We’ve already in effect by approving the concept opened the mass and scale question, and then how do you get a perception of that being less, that’s what we’re struggling with,” Miller said.
The council plans to receive input from the other commissions, but not necessarily and up or down vote. The council hopes to use those comments to help make a decision. That process shouldn’t delay the project any longer than absolutely necessary, said council member Mary Jo Fulkerson.
Contact Chris Dillmann at firstname.lastname@example.org