The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

January 5, 2013

Pittsburg hotel to come down, be rebuilt

By Andra Bryan Stefanoni
Globe Staff Writer

PITTSBURG, Kan. — A Pittsburg hotel and restaurant heavily damaged in a February windstorm will be demolished after intervention by the city of Pittsburg. But it will be rebuilt.

“People were calling it the ‘Blue Tarp Motel,’” City Manager Daron Hall said Friday of the Economy Inn & Suites on South Broadway, referring to blue tarps on the roof. “People have been calling us for months complaining about it, but it was a private business and we were waiting on the owner.”

The 66-unit hotel, which is comprised of seven buildings, including a restaurant, was owned by a Wichita family that also owns other hotels in the Midwest.

Attempts to reach the owners or their local representative were unsuccessful Friday.

“The reason it took so long was that the owner and his insurance company were at odds,” Hall said. “There was an issue over whether it needed to be repaired or destroyed and rebuilt. The cost to repair it was more than half of the value of the building.”

Under Kansas law, municipalities hit by a natural disaster can hold a portion of insurance payouts until damaged buildings are rebuilt or the site is cleaned up, when the money is released. This provides the cities with funding to cover demolition if no action is taken by an owner, Hall said.

Hall said that law “gives the city both the authority and the means to knock it down, and so we finally issued an order for demo.”

The insurance company filed an injunction, which led to mediation between the company, the owner and city officials.

“We all finally came to an agreement that it is going to be demolished and rebuilt,” Hall said.

Crawford County Convention and Visitors Bureau Director B.J. Harris said the loss of the hotel for the past year had a mixed effect on the local travel industry.

“There were missed opportunities a few times when we’re fully occupied, such as the Four State Farm Show and (Pittsburg State) commencement, and a few athletic tournaments,” Harris said. “But some of the other properties saw a boost in their overall average occupancy.”

“We’re on pace to have the best year we’ve had; it’s been a good year for travel tourism,” Harris said of Crawford County lodging. “But when you start looking at trying to grow, at having bigger events and more people, you want those rooms.”

City officials anticipate a representative of the owner will be in Pittsburg in the next few weeks to discuss rebuilding.

Hall said the city hopes the new hotel will include a 5,000-square-foot conference room and as many as 100 beds.

Hotel count

Before the loss of Economy Inn & Suites, Pittsburg had 454 hotel rooms available; afterward it had 388.