Tiger Hotel ‘beyond rehabilitation’?

Watchword reader Doc commented on this post regarding this story on the Tiger Hotel’s TIF application.

I felt like it was worth a new post so it wouldn’t get buried in the comments.

The problem with the Tiger Hotel is not that it is a landmark, we can all appreciate that. The problem is that it’s beyond re-hablitation and additionally as to whether it is the responsability of the local community and taxing authority to subsidise a failed private business venture to recover the investment the investors unwisely made.

These investments were not made to benifit the tax payer, nor the Columbia community but to make a return on what was seen as a risk worth exploitating. The failure here is the naviete and ego centerism of the investors in dealing with construction issues well beyond their, and their advisors understanding. Simply put, due to the structure itself and the construction techniques used in erecting the Tiger Hotel, with the exception of the spaces below the Mezzanine it is for the most part unusable. Particularly in providing the amount of cash flow needed to sustain a RTI and provide for the building’s maintaince and continued renewal of its outdadted mechanical infrastruture.

Imagine attempting to renew the Daniel Boone City Building, which we did using massive ammounts of tax
payer dollars and then turning it over to investors to make a profit by using those tax payer funds.

But for a momoent forget the above. Let’s talk history. Up until the 80’s a Mr. Sheldon, a local downtown businessman lived in his corner apartment of the Tiger and owned and ran the hotel.

The hotel was deteriorating, plus he was getting old. It was time to change things. He sold the hotel to a group of local investors. The investors secured renovation financing and Mr. Sheldon accepted a suborninated second mortgage. Needless to say they were all going to get rich. It didn’t happen. The investors lost their money, Mr. Sheldon lost his secured interest and the bank that financed it?
They wished it had never seen this deal. Actually when you wipe out your investors money, the orginal owners money and a lot of your own, you quickly realize it’s not worth it regardless of how cheap it appears.

Now this did not happen just once, it happend repeatably and now it has occured a third time with all it based on speculation for profit Personally I do not have a problem with that.

Currently it is being proposed that it be done a fourth time and this time with a taxpayer guarantee. Fool me for a third time? I don’t think so.

Questions to ponder: During that first time BNB was seeking to expand. Did they buy the Tiger? No. Question is why? I can only speculate that they possibly considered it, but I would also speculate they took a hard look at it structurally using professional anaylsis and decided it wasn’t worth the trouble.

As far as I know they did not invest in it, other than to buy the lot behind it and convert it into parking. The bank cat-a-corner across the street was not that smart however and bounced checks all over the place for the investor partnership before shutting it down.

The next bunch of investors were going to get rich off of the geriatic crowd. That didn’t work either and they couldn’t solve the inherent structural flaws of the old hotel either. At least only superficially.

The current group decided, after previous failure that, by golly, at the price they were paying success was guarranteed. Guests would come from everywhere. That right there should have told them something.

For a fact, each group of owners following Mr. Sheldon failed to understand that their true adversary is the building itself.

The Tiger Hotel is a solid concrete tower of early 20th Century innovation faced in brick. Like the old dormatories Stephens College tore down, the skin of the building is also its structure. You can’t remove its skin because then there is no skeleton. Today you have to live with it as it is, which is mostly incompatable with any modern usage except perhaps storage, and then the question becomes how accessable is it to that usage. Frankly, not much.

Now it really is a sad thing to admit, or to even acknowledge about such a regal structure. However, above the Mezzanine of the Tiger Hotel it consists of solid concret floors, shaped internally into cells. They are solid and they are heavy. They bridge east to west across the expanse of the building. North and South every six to eight feet or so, there rises a verticle concrete column. The columns run from above the mezzanine to the ninth floor. The columns are stacked on top of one another floor to floor and supported by massive concrete pillars that column through the lobby. Take out a pillar or a column and the structure weakens regardless the floor.

You cannot remove the colums and have the building remain standing. Thus the delima, you literally cannot remodel the building to restructure floor usage to make it profitable in this day and age within a range of pragmatic investment. Additionally the plumbing, the cooling and heating, and the elevator infrastructues are all very expensive to replace and maintain and mimic the colmns in there placement–risers every
six to eight feet for nine floors.

The question then becomes are we responsable for publicly bailing out this last set of investors? I would imagine that the previous investors would like to recoup their lost monies too. So should we in lieu of tax abatment write them a check for their losses? Believe me many of those first investors, who lost tens of thousands of dollars the first time around still live right here in Columbia today and would like their money back.

In truth the market needs to do its work once again and set a fair price and determine the options and uses available to the Tiger Hotel. One thing for sure it is not the tax payers nor the cities responsabilty to make that determination. Additionally, I cannot image any free market or financial institution subsidizing or risking funds not guaranteed 100%. And the only way that works, as far as I know, is as an owner you own it free and clear and in this instance that just ain’t
gonna’ happen. Our elected leaders shouldn’t make us investors either unless it’s truly public property, and frankly I think we as taxpayers need any more empy prperty down town.

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