Price, businesses review Newhouse development plan
|The Newhouse Hotel, a historic Main Street building has been in need of major repair for the last 30 years. The La Port Group, and specifically Ben Loge, has obtained financing to renovate the downtown structure. |
On Dec. 12, the Price City Council conducted a public hearing regarding the development of the Newhouse Hotel.
According to Price Mayor Joe Piccolo, the meeting was set to dispel any rumors floating around town and bring to light a project that could add value to the community.
"There are many issues coming from the downtown business owners, the least of which is the parking situation," said Piccolo. "But it is my opinion that this won't be the last time we will have parking issues on Main Street. Many other business will be coming into that area of our city and some of them may be apartments. We are going to see what we can do as a city to make parking available downtown."
The Price mayor reported that in the last few years the downtown area has accommodated businesses such as Med USA and Discovery while losing the El Salto's restaurant.
"As those businesses have come and gone I have seen no real change in the parking situation downtown," said Piccolo. "It is always busy but there is always a place to park."
The Newhouse which will be a transitional housing unit that will provide 19 apartments to a wide variety of city residents.
"All clientele will be accepted, from the mentally ill to the handicapped to the young married couple," said project manager and owner Ben Loge. "The front of the store will be turned into a store front as before and we are looking forward to once again making the Newhouse a vibrant part of the downtown community."
According to Loge, the landowner and private investor plans to put $6.2 million into local projects, including the Newhouse and the Golden Rule Mission in Helper.
The developer will receive federal tax credits based on the contingency that the project is successful.
"He stands to lose a great deal of money if this project does not perform and he has already made a sizable out of pocket contribution to the effort," said Piccolo. "Those are strong incentives to make sure something lasting and worthwhile is added to our community."
Jerri Timothy of Fitness World, a Main Street business, spoke of the problems she has encountered with the tenants above her building.
"They won't move their cars and as a result I have a hard time getting proper snow removal and street sweeping, something I only see getting worse with 19 new apartments downtown."
Mayor Piccolo interjected stating that parking is no reason to be against this project. He mentioned that the city's Main Street study is underway and parking is going to be one of the major issues addressed.
"Parking is a problem we can find a solution to," said Piccolo.
Parking was central, but not the only issue raised by businesses and citizens who have concerns about The LaPort Group.
"We don't want to see this building turn into another Price Hotel," said Sue Hoffman, owner of Hardhat Furniture on Main Street. "Tenants from that building frankly scare business away from Main Street."
Loge responded with the following stipulations:
The Newhouse would have 24 hour management by an ex-law enforcement officer.
The Newhouse would have a strict no alcohol, tobacco or drug policy, under the penalty of eviction.
The apartments will be gutted from the inside and have new granite and tile installed. Insuring that everything is up to code and will be long lasting.
The structure will be built "green" meaning that the building will use the latest technologies in order to insure maximum energy efficiency.
All potential tenants will have background checks performed after being approved by the local housing authority.
Linda Varner of the Carbon County Housing Authority came out in full support of the project.
"We need private investors to continue to support subsidized housing in our area," said Varner. "The housing authority is behind this project and is already developing a waiting list for tenants."
According to Loge, he plans to use as many local businesses as possible in the construction of the Newhouse's infrastructure.
"I want to give to the local economy as much as I can," said Loge.
Loge reported that the apartments will have mail service and free Internet as well as a recreation room that will have a computer for the tenants of the building.
"We are serious about building "green" in this building, our apartments in Salt Lake pay between $5 to $7 a month for electric heat," said Loge.
According to Loge, he plans to pay for the water and sewer in the building with the tenants paying for their own electricity.
Loge plans to start the full scale remodel in the beginning of March with all new infrastructure inside and a historical remake of the building on its outer structure.