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Residents seek way to preserve historic buildings

A group of locals is trying its best to make sure that the old hospital building, as well as others within Boulder City's historic district remain standing instead of being demolished.

Boulder City resident and Planning Commission member Randy Schams made an offer to purchase the lot at 701 Park Place where the old hospital buildings sits in the historic district. Schams' plan is to demolish the buildings with the intention of developing new homes with an historic feel.

Escrow is expected to close Aug. 1.

Though the 83-year-old hospital and caretakers building are in a historically designated area, the Historic Preservation Committee can't do anything about the proposed demolition.

"The Historic Preservation Committee has zero power," said Christina Frausto committee chairman. "When places sit vacant, they tend to deteriorate and things happen. It becomes so cost prohibitive that they end up demolished through neglect."

A group of nearly 30 residents met Thursday night during the Boulder City Democratic Club's monthly meeting to discuss what, if anything, could be done to preserve the old hospital.

After the building's ownership changed hands from one nonprofit to another in 2012, the hospital, which hadn't served as a hospital since the 1970s, became a popular spot for vagrants and vandalism when the owner, I Am Free Inc., defaulted on the property. Fearing further damage to the building, the city boarded up the doors and windows, something that didn't sit well with Frausto.

"Why did the city spend funds to board up the property when it was owned by a corporation?" she asked the group. "I don't understand why they didn't turn to those people and have them board it up and make them responsible."

News of the hospital's potential razing prompted one resident to start an online petition to halt the demolition. The petition currently has 363 signatures of support.

"There has been a fundamental lack of interest as a community," said Keegan Strouse, who circulated the petition. "He (Schams) has every right to tear down the building because there are no protections."

Schams said he heard about the petition circulating around town, though he hasn't actually seen it. He said he's also heard from a few residents asking him to preserve the building.

According to Frausto, another man was interested in the old hospital building when it hit the market in 2014. The man, she said, wanted to restore it with the intention of turning it into a bed and breakfast. The man even handed out surveys to nearby residents for feedback, she said. Frausto noted that concerns arose about the possibility of excess cars driving through the neighborhood, as well as guests going in and out of the building throughout the night.

The man withdrew any further interest after garnering the negative feedback, Frausto said, leaving the door open for another buyer.

Strouse said the unintended consequences of the building's potential demolition are the result of "small-town" syndrome, a situation where residents jump to conclusions too quickly when a potential buyer has ideas for a historic building. He said the first potential buyer did his due diligence to the community by handing out surveys, but the negative feedback opened the door for someone else to come in and tear the building down.

Residents at Thursday's meeting also discussed ways to give the Historic Preservation Committee more power to keep future historic buildings from being torn down. The group shared its feelings with the City Council, and previously discussed generating signatures to possibly get a measure put on the ballot.

Strouse said with the Boulder City bypass coming, it's important to keep the historic district as historic as it can be.

"Boulder City has the opportunity to save itself," he said.

Contact reporter Steven Slivka at sslivka@bouldercityreview.com or 702-586-9401. Follow him on Twitter @StevenSlivka.

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