No action: Landmark Hotel construction at a standstill
After the removal of the 10+ story crane at the site of the Landmark Hotel on Friday, January 30, the future of the luxury lodging establishment remained hazy. The hotel's owner and lender would not say what the crane's come-down meant for the future of the hotel, and workers on the site reported to the Hook that the reason the crane was coming down was due to the fact that they were done pouring concrete on top of the building. So on Tuesday, February 3, the question remained: Once the concrete is finished setting, what's next in the hotel's construction?
Answer: There is no next–- at least for now.
A visit to the Landmark site reveals that only a handful of workers were working Tuesday, and they report that they are only there to scrape off any excess concrete from the recent job. No masons were on the site, no heating and air conditioning workers, no heavy equipment operators, no construction of any kind going on at the site of the Landmark Hotel.
Repeated calls to the hotel's owner Halsey Minor and to its lender Silverton Bank went unreturned by the time of this post.
This comes only three weeks after workers on the site told the Hook that construction was coming to a halt for 60 days. At that time, Minor's attorney Steve Blaine confirmed that construction might be slowing down, but that this was no indicator of an uncertain future for the project.
“As with any project,” said Blaine, “the owner is making certain he’s going to deliver the project in the most financially efficient and viable way.”
This, said Blaine, is not cause for alarm.
“Halsey Minor is still the owner, the contractor is still the contractor, and the bank still has a loan,” said Blaine, “and they all intend to bring this project to completion.”
This week's stoppage comes at a time when the hotel is only one degree separated from a man who's just been financially disgraced in the current economic crisis. On Thursday, the Daily Beast revealed that as Merrill Lynch CEO John Thain was planning to slash expenses and lay off thousands of workers, Thain had hired interior decorator to the stars Michael Smith to redesign Merrill's New York office for $1.2 million. This is the same interior decorator whom Minor had hired for the Landmark Hotel, for an untold portion of the hotel's $31 million budget.
A representative for Smith tells the Hook that it is Smith's policy "not to comment on clients."
This is but the latest in a series of events that has raised the level of public uncertainty about the project. In November, Silverton Bank withheld its loan money on the project, though the reason was publicly disputed between owner and lender. The following month, owner Minor ousted developer Lee Danielson as the project’s developer.
Some have wondered if the City government might intervene in a fashion akin to the federal bailout of the banking and auto industries. Such a move would not be unprecedented. In the early '90s, the City finished chipping in more than $11 million to complete and then bail-out the Omni hotel. Aubrey Watts, the City's director of economic development, did not return the Hook's call for comment, but if Mayor Dave Norris' recent comments are any indicator, it would not appear such a deal is in the works.
“If it never exists,” Norris told the Hook in December, “it’s not like Downtown will die.”
Asked about the prospect of getting involved in the project in even a mediation role, Norris said, "Absolutely not. I'm no dummy."