Months after the Alaska Hotel burned down, the fate of what will rise up on the land that once held the landmark hotel is still yet to be determined.
In September, the establishment burned down in what the hotel’s owner, Charles Kux-Kardos, said was determined by insurance adjustors to come from an errant cigarette.
All together, Kux-Kardos was given was just over $3.5 million in insurance for the hotel.
But while approximately 34 per cent of the people surveyed in an informal poll by the Dawson Creek Daily News have said that they would like the hotel to be rebuilt, Kux-Kardos said that this was not going to happen.
“There’s no way it can be rebuilt,” he said.
Kux-Kardos explained that while the insurance paid for costs associated with what was in the building they would not cover other costs, such as the price tag associated with installing sprinkler systems or other amenities that were not included in the historical building’s design.
“It’s really unfeasible,” he said. “You’d have to be out of your mind to build a wood frame building without an elevator… you wouldn’t be allowed to.”
Kux-Kardos also said that he expected the cost to rebuild the Alaska to its former self would be around $10 million.
The hotel was a long-standing business in the community, and Mayor Mike Bernier said that the city lost “a lot of history” when the hotel burned down.
However, he admits that even if the hotel were to be rebuilt, it would not have the history that the former hotel had.
“You can’t build history,” he said.
Tourism Dawson Creek’s development co-ordinator Samantha Gibeault said that the hotel was a draw for downtown. However, she believed that tourists would continue to come through Dawson Creek.
“It wasn’t the only draw,” she said. “It won’t eliminate tourists downtown.”
While Kux-Kardos has ruled out rebuilding the hotel, he said he would not like to see the area remain blank.
“There might be a fairly large piece of property that could be developed with [heated] parking underneath,” he said. “What would be even better is like a downtown mall… what to do there is a major decision.”
Kux-Kardos said that this plan would benefit the owners.
However, some of his plans would include property that is currently owned by Lynn Granger, the owner of Brass Scissors. Brass Scissors was destroyed in the same blaze that took out the Alaska Hotel.
And some of Kux-Kardos ideas for the property may conflict with ideas that Granger would like to do.
While she is currently renting out another location and operating her hair styling operation from there, she said she would like to rebuild her store in its previous location.
Granger said that she likes that particular spot for her hair salon.
However, this conflicts with Kux-Kardos’s plans for the size of lots available in that intersection. He said that he would like to see one massive complex built across multiple lots.
Both Kux-Kardos and Granger said they have discussed this issue previously, but Granger remains committed to the idea of rebuilding at her previous location.
She said that so far, Kux-Kardos has not made her an offer to buy the lot from her to possibly complete this plan.
“He’d have to pay a lot of money,’ she said. “Money talks and B.S. walks.”
However, Kux-Kardos said that he did not consider the plans to have gone this far for him to begin buying out Granger’s lot. He also said that his complex could make room for Granger’s location, and that another option would be for him to possibly pay her for that lot.
He also said that if he could not build a larger complex on those lots, including the area formerly included with Granger’s lots, he may have to sell the lot or find another retail outlet to put on his lot.
“I just have this one sort of nice and big chunk that might be big enough to do a restaurant or to do a retail spot, but it’s probably too small a piece of property,” Kux-Kardos added.
He also said that he wanted to bring this issue to public attention because he felt a discussion was needed about what could be a potential downtown draw. He feels area is not doing well, and hoped that a new attraction on the Alaska Hotel site could help revitalize the downtown core.
When asked about what could be done on the former site, Bernier said that he believed that whatever businesses the city could get on those sites would be beneficial. Gibeault also said that new businesses would be welcomed on the site.
A Downtown Revitalization Plan available on the Tourism Dawson Creek website suggested revamping downtown to join the N.A.R. Park and promoting it as Mile 0 of the Alaska Highway, which the document suggests is the key attraction to downtown.
It also suggested that future buildings could use the prairie-style “false front” architecture that the Alaska Hotel and other buildings are currently using.
The 2005 study also suggested that higher densities, going from two stories to possibly five. This could allow for retail opportunities on the bottom floor, with residential opportunities above them.
CHAMBER OF COMMERCE STILL FEELING EFFECTS OF FIRE
The Landmark building, which currently houses the Dawson Creek Chamber of Commerce, was also damaged as the result of the fire.
According to an e-mail sent out to chamber members, repairs are underway.
“Currently, we have a restoration company in the building daily, working on painting, changing ceiling tiles, changing out carpets and flooring,” the e-mail states. “We have been told that the work should be done by Dec. 1.”