Traver Hotel options should be in hands of owners
November 17, 2010 | 08:51 AM
It's impossible for those of us who work at the Regional News to ignore what is known as the former Traver Hotel at 323 Broad St.
Every day we pass it, go around it and even look out the windows of the editorial office to see the fire escape and upper floors of the now dilapidated, old building.
That's also why it's so difficult to consider the future possibilities of the property.
For years, the historic building, formerly known as the Garrison House, the Hotel Denison and most recently the Traver Hotel, has sat idle. Built in 1870 by Benjamin Fish to meet the demands of the tourists flocking to Lake Geneva upon the completion of the railroad, the former hotel has become what many in the community call an "eyesore."
It is now in rough shape. What once was a temporary home to visitors and tourists is now home to small animals, a place for teenagers and gang members to break in and gather or have a drinking party, and at one time it may have even been home to people who had nowhere else to go.
For a short time last month, it was boarded up. Since then, those boards have been removed and the windows and doors that were broken were repaired.
There are a few options to resolve the issues with this building. Among those include a redevelopment of the property or razing the current building. Obviously, a redevelopment project that would include remodeling and repairing the existing building would be the best option.
However, that type of project is in the hands of the owners of the property. It's not up to the city and its officials to ensure or help a redevelopment project occur with the building or the land.
Conversations and other documents provided by 323 Broad Street Property LLC President Keith Venturi, suggest they had sought and continue to seek financial help from the city to "successfully develop a joint comprehensive plan to improve the Lake Geneva community."
This is private property, owned by a company that purchased it with the intention of developing and earning a profit. Although city Tax Incremental Financing District money can be used to help out private businesses with developments and improvements, it would be a mistake for the city to start down that road. Can you imagine all the people knocking on the city's door asking for money?
It appears as though the City Council will address the building at its next meeting on Monday night. I would guess two of the options are to do nothing or raze the building.
For 10 years, this building basically has been vacant. I have no qualifications to make this opinion, but I believe the building is probably not much worse for wear than it was in 2000.
We've watched paint flake off, woods boards pulled from underneath the canopy and the door on the third floor fire escape fall off under windy conditions. But, the building is still standing and it truly is historic. The owners want to save the landmark as they call it "one of the key commercial properties that established what Lake Geneva is today."
Razing this building now would be a mistake. It wouldn't improve the area because the white building blocks others behind that look even worse. What would be put there instead, a parking lot that is only used three months of the year?
Razing it also would mean another loss of the city's rich history. Too much of that already is gone.
Given this economy, let the owners know they have two years to redevelop the building or the property. This way they have time to gather their funding and propose an idea that would work in that area. If nothing is done during that time, then the city should consider its options.
So, instead of trying to decide for the property owners what's best in the situation, leave the decision in the hands of the owners. If they truly want to save the building, they will find a way to make it happen. If they are unable, then it will be time for city officials to make some decisions.
Seiser is the editor of the Regional News.