Judge wants new inspection to see if too late to save Mapes Hotel
RENO, Nev. – A judge ordered inspections of the Mapes Hotel on Tuesday to determine whether demolition work has so weakened the historic hotel-casino that it is too late to save it.
Washoe District Judge James Hardesty said he intends to decide Tuesday whether to grant another temporary restraining order to halt demolition work on the Mapes.
Historic preservationists are seeking the court order in their attempt to protect the 52-year-old building while they try to prove the City Council violated open bidding laws by failing to advertise for the demolition project.
Preservationists also have legal challenges pending at the Nevada Supreme Court and U.S. District Court in Reno aimed at blocking plans to blow up the building on Jan. 30, Super Bowl Sunday.
The Mapes was the first building to house a hotel, casino and live entertainment under one roof. Sammy Davis Jr., Mae West and the Marx Brothers performed in the window-walled Sky Room, which offered views of the Sierra Nevada.
A city building inspector testified in District Court on Monday that the work completed to date has left the building structurally unsound.
”It’s getting more and more dangerous,” Michael Mitchell said. ”If we were to have an earthquake or something of that event, the building would come down uncontrolled and I would say you’d have a high risk to people in the area as well as neighboring buildings.” Mitchell said he did not know what magnitude earthquake would destroy the Mapes.
Hardesty instructed the city and the preservationists to hire their own structural inspectors and report back to him by 1:30 p.m. Tuesday.
”I have two questions: Is the building capable of being saved and if so, at what cost?” Hardesty said Monday.
”Is this just an academic exercise given the present state of the building? We’re not in the business of academic exercises,” he said.
Patrick Clauss, president of the construction company hired to prepare the building for the implosion, said significant weakening of the building has occurred since Hardesty lifted an earlier injunction temporarily blocking the demolition work in December.
”We have to weaken it so we can control it – the way it falls down during implosion,” Clauss said.
”In my opinion, if you have enough money, yes, you can rehabilitate it,” he said.
Mitchell, the city building inspector said, doubts ”very seriously … whether it is economically feasible” (to rehabilitate) the Mapes.
The city originally estimated it would cost at least $20 million to rehabilitate the Mapes. But city officials estimate now it would cost much more than that, given the demolition work completed so far and the poor condition of the building.
Because of an earlier court order that temporarily halted demolition work, Clauss said his crews won’t be done preparing the building for the implosion until two or three days before Jan. 30.
Another restraining order blocking that work likely would force cancellation of the $819,000 demolition contract, about half of which has been completed, Clauss said.
City spokesman Chris Good said cancellation of the demolition contract would cost the city more than $500,000, plus whatever money would be necessary for a future demolition effort should it finally be allowed.
Jeffrey Dickerson, a lawyer for the Truckee Meadows Heritage Trust, said Monday the city violated state open bidding laws that require advertising of public works projects in excess of $100,000.
The city mailed invitations to bid to contractors it had done business with in the past but did not advertise for the bids. City officials maintain the demolition work is exempt from the advertising requirement.
In the federal lawsuit, preservationists claim that the implosion would violate the federal Clean Air and Clean Water acts. That suit is set to be heard on Jan. 21.
Hardesty earlier rejected efforts by the preservationists to void the City Council’s decision based on violations of state open meetings laws. His ruling has been appealed to the Nevada Supreme Court, which earlier refused to grant a temporary stay while it considers that appeal.