PORT ANGELES — A demolition permit that would make way for a new downtown hotel could be issued by June 14, David Wechner, interim Port Angeles planning director, said Thursday.
That’s the deadline for city officials to review the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe’s application to tear down a garage in the 100 block of East Front Street for their $24 million, four-story, 100-room hotel, which they hope to build by July 2020.
Tribal officials are already making preparations.
A construction fence has been erected around the 101 E. Front St. parcel.
Workers on Thursday began conducting asbestos-abatement tests on the building housing the Cornerhouse Restaurant and the Downtown Hotel, initially finding little to be concerned about, workers conducting the review said Thursday.
While demolition will begin as soon as possible on the garage, that’s not the case with the landmark eatery and hotel, tribal project manager Michael Peters said Thursday.
Peters said it has not been determined that the hotel-restaurant building needs to be torn down.
“I would not use the word ‘likely,’ ” he added.
But that’s what restaurant owner Joanne Albertson said she was led to believe from an email and conversation this week with hotel general manager Robert Utz, the administrator of her lease.
The text message she received Monday from Utz made her believe without doubt that she would have to leave by September, she said.
It was also sent to Downtown Hotel General Manager Tim Chamberlain, Utz said in the text.
“The preliminary estimates are coming in relative to demoing [demolishing] the building now rather than later, and it does seem quite favorable to do it now,” Utz said in the text.
“However, the question is, what is now?
“At this point, we have provided the city with all that is needed to demo the garage, Budget [Rent a Car] building and Necessities & Temptations,” the latter of which was shuttered earlier this spring.
“A separate demo permit will need to be submitted for the demo of the DT Hotel CH [Cornerhouse] restaurant, which would likely take two months to get approved,” Utz said in the text.
“The leases were approved in the Elwha Tribal Council meeting this morning but was agreed that we want to delay now until after the summer season so that you and the CH can achieve the needed summer revenues.
“So no guarantees, but it seems likely that now could be in September.”
Utz referred questions Thursday about the email to Peters.
Albertson said this week she is scrambling to prepare herself and her 16 employees to leave the restaurant by September, and by December at the latest.
She said repeatedly that she feels no ill will toward the tribe as the property owner and hopes her regular customers can find a new home after she closes.
“I don’t want to paint the tribe in a bad light,” she said. “I understand completely what they are doing.”
Albertson’s lease includes a provision for a 30-day notice to vacate.
“We simply do not know at this moment what the situation is going to be as we get closer to the end of that lease,” Peters said.
The tribe bought the buildings housing Cornerhouse, Downtown Hotel and Necessities & Temptations gift shop earlier this year.
Necessities & Temptations also is set to be demolished for parking or potential future hotel expansion, and as a laydown area for construction equipment.
Peters said the restaurant and hotel might not be demolished if the pile-driving and construction of the new hotel does not compromise the building.
“We don’t know what will happen to the structure of that building when we start pounding pilings,” he said.
“No one knows that until it actually happens.”
“At this point, we don’t have a plan to take down that building, so we’d like to keep it alive,” Peters said.
“Anyone who says that building is going to come down at the end of the summer or this summer is not speaking from a factual point.
“I would say this: The tribe has not made a decision until the tribal council makes a decision.
“It’s not on their agenda to address that question.”
Environmental cleanup will include removal of three petroleum-product tanks and extraction of 1,500-2,000 cubic yards of petroleum-contaminated soils.
Peters said in an earlier interview he expects the tribe will need three to four weeks for demolition of the garage and six to eight weeks for cleanup.
He said it might be possible to removed polluted soil from under the restaurant-hotel building without compromising the structure.
“Our environmental engineer has a process he’s working on to figure that piece out,” Peters said.
“The environmental engineer said it can absolutely happen that way.
“We are doing our due diligence, figuring out how stable that building is, determining how to do cleanup under that building.”
Anderson, 63, said she is already downsizing by not hiring additional staff for the busy summer season.
“It is very likely I will be here until September,” she said Wednesday, taking a morning break from cooking while sitting in the low lighting of the Cornerhouse bar.
She said she signed a new lease Tuesday with the tribe.
“They gave me a really good deal until the deadline,” she said.
Downtown Hotel General Manager Tim Chamberlain, who was out of town this week, did not respond to text messages Wednesday and Thursday seeking comment about the hotel project.
Albertson is acting as though closure of her restaurant is imminent.
She’s already started moving items from the restaurant and rented a storage shed, she said.
Having been unable to sell the business she has owned since 1986 when she was 30, she expects to have to look for new work by the end of the year.
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected].