Scaled-down version of Windsor Hotel project moves forward




A project to install a new roof and stabilize the Windsor Hotel is expected to kick off later this spring, after the Garden City Commission signed off on hiring a contractor Tuesday.

The city awarded the project to The Wilson Group, Inc., of Greenwood, Mo., for the low bid of $722,129.

"We're real happy to be working with them. Hopefully it will move quickly, and we'll proceed from there," Don Harness, Finney County Preservation Alliance president, said.

The 93-room hotel was built in 1887 by John Stevens, one of Garden City's founders. The Preservation Alliance has been working for years to save the building.

The city received a $675,200 Transportation Enhancement — Historic Category grant from the Kansas Department of Transportation in August 2010. Combined with a required local match, a total of roughly $844,000 was available for the project. The city is the intermediary agency between KDOT and the Preservation Alliance.

This phase of the project is a scaled down version of what Windsor supporters intended. Originally, the proposed project also included a new skylight, metal facade, removing downstairs floor joists and the wood floor and replacing the floor with concrete. The scope of the project turned out to be bigger than the available funds, however, and when it was originally bid last August, the project had no bidders.

"They knew how much stuff they wanted to do, then found they couldn't do it," Steve Cottrell, city engineer, said. "You either get bids that are way high and you have to start over, or, in our case, the first time we didn't get any bids."

Since then, the Preservation Alliance worked on getting an initial restoration and stabilization project ready to bid. Alternate bidding methods, via construction management, were considered, but it was decided to rebid as a conventional contract again. This time, the entire project was out for bid, but included several alternates that could be deducted from the project to reduce the overall cost.

"We had a set of drawings that had way more work than we could afford. It just says, 'don't do this part for so much less; don't do that part for so much less,'" Cottrell said. "We just kept not doing things until we got to the point we could afford it."

The deducted parts of the project include a concrete slab; demolition of floors, non-historic walls, elevator and pit and ceilings; structural repair work for the stair and balcony framing; wood door and window repair; and work on the skylight.

The deductions lowered The Wilson Group's bid from $1.145 million to $722,129.

Two bids were received by Jan. 24. The other bidder was Building Solutions, LLC, of Dodge City with an overall bid of $3.45 million.

Removing the same six deductions would have lowered the Building Solutions bid to $2.4 million.

"The new roof is a big deal, and they'll be doing some stabilization inside," Harness said. "We're hoping to get some more funding so we can do some of the things that were originally in the scope of work."

Harness said the first item the Preservation Alliance wants to find money for is the skylight. The Wilson Group's bid on the skylight alternate was about $185,000.

"We got the roof, but we don't have the funding for the skylight. It would be most appropriate to do that when putting on a new roof. If we can raise the funds, we'll get that back in the scope of work," Harness said.

Harness isn't sure the increase in the project's cost is due to an increase in expenses, or if the original scope was a case of wishful thinking. Fundraising for the building is an ongoing process, he said, and right now the Preservation Alliance doesn't have a specific plan.

"We'll be meeting in March, and I asked the board members to put their thinking caps on and come up with some other fundraisers to look at. No finite plans right now, but that's how we want to proceed," he said.

Structural renovation of the building is necessary before any other rehabilitation is done.

The Preservation Alliance has about $180,000 from a Lois K. Walls Foundation grant to renovate the lobby area and the cupola, but planned to do that project after the structural repairs.

The cost to completely overhaul the building has been estimated at $15 million to $20 million.

Still, Harness is glad to see some progress being made.

"We're real pleased to get some motion going on the Windsor. It's still a sizable amount of money we'll be putting in it, and it will take care of some significant things. That's all good," Harness said.

Cottrell said the start date for the project hasn't been determined, but he estimated it could begin as early as sometime in April, with work likely to continue through the rest of 2014.

The project might require blocking off some parking and closing sidewalks in front of the building during construction, but probably won't mean closing streets. Public notices will be issued as needed.

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