Historic Hotel being readied for implosion | NevadaAppeal.com

Historic Hotel being readied for implosion

SANDRA CHEREB

RENO, Nev. (AP) – The hope that the Mapes Hotel would become anything but a dusty pile of rubble and memories dwindled Friday as demolition experts prepared to implode the historic landmark.

Still, preservations hoping to save the 52-year-old, 12-story Art Deco building refused to concede defeat, clinging to the hope that a last-minute savior could be found.

”It’s not over ’til it’s over,” said Gary Kozel, spokesman for the Washington, D.C.,-based National Trust for Historic Preservation.

”There are things going on,” he said, refusing to elaborate.

Less than 100 pounds of explosives will be used to bring the Mapes down at 8 a.m. on Super Bowl Sunday, said Mark Loizeaux, president of Controlled Demolition Inc., the Phoenix, Md., company that is doing the implosion.

The explosives were being inserted into 420 holes drilled into support columns on five floors. If all goes as planned, the building should come down in about 14 seconds.

”This building’s going to come apart in midair,” Loizeaux said. ”It’s just going to dissolve.”

Loizeaux (pronounced lah-WAH-zoh) said less explosives will be needed than previously thought because of the poor, deteriorating condition of the building’s concrete supports.

In recent weeks, preservationists have tried suing, protests, phone campaigns – even a stab at Lady Luck in a bid to win a huge slot jackpot – to try to win a reprieve for the boarded-up relic of Reno’s former heyday.

”There’s no sign of second thoughts on the part of the City Council,” city spokesman Chris Good said. The council voted to demolish the building in September.

A full-page advertisement sponsored by the National Trust in Wednesday’s Reno Gazette-Journal sparked about 250 calls to City Hall, Good said. About two-thirds of callers opposed Sunday’s demolition.

Whatever the outcome, members of the National Trust and the local Truckee Meadows Heritage Trust plan a gathering in Barbara Bennett Park near the site.

”If it’s a wake, the bagpiper will starting wailing at 8:05 a.m.,” Kozel said. ”If it’s a celebration, we’ll have a swing band. We’re prepared either way.”

In 1998, The National Trust put the Mapes on its list of the nation’s 11 most endangered historic buildings. Sunday’s implosion will mark the first time a building on the annual list has been lost to wrecking crews.

Located on prime real estate along the Truckee River, the Mapes has gained national attention as a kind of poster child for the debate over redevelopment at the cost of the city’s heritage.

An editorial in Thursday’s New York Times said, ”The destruction of this building will mean a significant loss of architectural and community heritage in a city undergoing swift transformation, a transformation that should make a national landmark like the Mapes all the more valuable.”

Built in 1947, the Mapes was the first building in the nation constructed specifically to house a hotel, casino and live entertainment under one roof.

It was the place to be seen during its glory years in the ’50s and ’60s, when entertainers such as Mae West, the Marx Brothers and Sammy Davis Jr. performed in its top-floor, window-walled Sky Room with a spectacular view of the Sierra Nevada.

But those days are long gone, city officials say. As Mayor Jeff Griffin put it in response to criticism from preservation advocates, ”It’s time to move on.”

The Mapes shut its doors on Dec. 17, 1982 and has remained boarded up ever since as various proposals to restore it fizzled.

”The financing was not there for any of the plans to rehabilitate the building,” Good said.

”People often don’t realize that the building has been vacant for a third of its life,” he said. ”This community has two choices. Either live with a vacant building or tear it down and put something in its place.”

The city wants to clear the land to expand its riverside district of art galleries, restaurants and shops.