Ormsby House a symbol for downtown

What a blow it would be to Carson City if the Ormsby House doesn't reopen.

It's been almost three years since the hotel-casino was operational, so the effects on tourism and employment have already been weathered. But downtown businesses, and residents around the city in general, have been anxiously watching the progress of construction on the 30-year-old landmark and waiting for the day it reopens to help spark the revival of downtown.

It's certainly up to owners Don Lehr and Al Fiegehen to make whatever decision is best for them. When they bought the real estate in 1997 for $3.75 million, they estimated the total renovation project would cost $10 million.

Obviously, they have put a lot of money into the building already -- $8 million, Fehr said on Friday. The question now is how much more they want to sink into the project.

Some have suggested they should have demolished the structure in the beginning and started over from ground level. But Lehr and Fiegehen chose to try to leave the Ormsby House standing while changing most of the interior and exterior.

Now, with an application filed Friday for a permit to demolish the building, the future of the Ormsby House is very much in doubt.

One disturbing part of the owners' comments were their complaints of a lack of cooperation from City Hall. We haven't been privy to many of the details regarding plumbing, electrical and building codes, but we understand there are areas where compromise is possible and areas where it isn't.

We're sure city officials understand the magnitude of the project and the potential consequences if Lehr and Fiegehen pull the plug. Whatever assistance they can provide, they should. But they can't waive standard regulations.

Although it doesn't rank in age and history with many of the buildings in Carson City, the Ormsby House nevertheless stands tall as one of the symbols of downtown. To anyone who has lived here through its ups and downs, there is a genuine fondness for the place and a sincere hope it can recapture -- and exceed -- its past glory.

If it comes down in a heap, it will instead be a symbol of shattered expectations.


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