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Group opposes Winder hotel's demolition

WINDER -- Bill Summerour remembers when the old Granite Hotel was a bustling business center.

"It was a functional hotel, a shoe shop, and it had a dining room," said Summerour, a lifelong resident of Barrow County. He thinks the city of Winder's plans to demolish the 112-year-old downtown building "lack foresight."

While city officials see the two-story structure as a financial burden, Summerour sees future opportunities. "They just want to tear everything down," Summerour said. "We need to use our downtown buildings as a foundation for the future."

Summerour and a group opposing the hotel's demolition plan to attend Tuesday's city council meeting and speak their piece. It could be a final opportunity for residents to chime in as officials plan to vote on who will demolish the Granite Hotel.

Some city officials feel that demolishing the building is the most financially prudent move.

Mike Rice, chairman of the Winder Downtown Development Authority, said that ever since the city purchased the building in 2004 it has spent more than $200,000 to stop it from crumbling.

Built in 1899, the two-story hotel was originally constructed to give new residents a place to stay while they settled in to build homes there.

If council members give a demolition company the go-ahead Tuesday, it could cost the city somewhere between $178,000 and $600,000 for the job. Rice said the city would request that the building be razed after Christmas "because we don't want to mess up the holidays for the businesses nearby."

The city has received bids from demolition companies ranging from $178,000 to $600,000 for the job. Councilmen plan to review those bids at the Dec. 6 meeting.

Once demolished, the city has plans to build a downtown park in its place.

Winder resident Darell Person doesn't like that idea.

"I don't get why the city wants to tear down the last standing granite hotel in Georgia and make a big mud hole that's going to be there for months," Person said. "We need to take another look at this idea. It's not just some piece of junk. It's an important piece of this city's heritage, and we don't want it buried."

City Councilman Sonny Morris said he'll "hate to see (the building) go, but we're at the point where we have to do this. It's just about ready to fall down."

Morris said construction of a park area will mark the beginning of the city's revitalization, or "Streetscape," program.

Officials said demolition of the granite building will involve a large amount of engineering to keep it from damaging other buildings or city streets as it comes down.

The city council meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Winder Community Center, 113 E. Athens St., Winder.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.