Company offers partnership to restore granite hotel

WINDER - Wayne Sisco of New Urban Solutions says Winder's century-old granite hotel should be treated like an ailing tooth.

"We believe the hotel is salvageable," Sisco said. "We want to go in and clean it like a decayed tooth."

New Urban Solutions is offering to partner with Winder to restore the former Barrow Hotel, with the ultimate goal of selling it and splitting the profits. Under the terms of Sisco's proposal, the city would deed the hotel to Winder's Downtown Development Authority, which would retain ownership and control of the building through Phase I.

"The city cannot enter into some of the transactions needed to develop the building, the DDA can," said Winder City Manager Bob Beck.

When Phase I work is completed, the DDA and New Urban Solutions would form a limited liability corporation, or LLC, that could use Federal Historic Rehabilitation tax credits, Sisco said.

"We don't want to buy the building, but we will invest in it," Sisco said. "There will be a financial return, but not on the front end."

Restoration costs are estimated at $3 million.

Workers would stabilize the building and clean it of debris and asbestos. Sisco proposes securing the structure by sliding a steel skeleton inside the granite walls and welding on a central steel column. Balconies on both Broad and Athens Streets would be reconstructed,

Sisco is unsure from how much damage the structure suffers.

"Water is getting into the building," Sisco said. "All that really happened is that the roof stopped being repaired. We might be able to salvage the stairs."

Once work begins, the building should reopen within six months as a living commercial center with retail spaces, restaurants and loft living areas, Sisco said. He favors recording the hotel's history and restoration as a documentary film.

The 19,800-square-foot Barrow Hotel was built about 1895 of solid, load-bearing granite. It remains the largest, solid granite building in Georgia from that era still standing, Beck said.

In December 2004, Winder officials paid $200,000 for the building, intending to demolish it and build a parking garage on the space. Once demolition plans were announced, several groups lobbied to save the building.

Dorothy Baxter, of Winder, favors restoring the hotel.

"I'd rather see it there than a parking lot," she said.

Jack Ellerbee, of Winder, says the Barrow Hotel's usefulness is all in the past.

"It's day is over," Ellerbee said. "It'll cost more to fix it than it is worth. They should push it down, make a parking lot and reclaim the courthouse."