The boost Great Bend Economic Development’s efforts to raze the blighted former Highland Hotel to make way for a new hotel development, the City Council Tuesday night approved loaning GBED $100,000 to move the effort along.
“As a follow up to the report given by (GBED) Board Chairman Paul Snapp at a previous city council meeting, they are moving forward with the demolition and feel the $100,000 coupled with other funds available will allow them to complete the project and then repay the funds to the account as soon as the property is marketed for re-development,” City Administrator Brandon Anderson said, addressing the City Council Tuesday night. These funds would be borrowed from the city’s economic development fund.
“It’s exciting to see that project progress,” he said. He saw the loan as a “bridge” to get things rolling.
Snapp was present at the meeting Tuesday and said the project was already underway.
“There’s some salvage operation related to it, so the salvage kind of comes first,” he said, addressing a question on when the actual demolition would commence. He was referring to copper pipes and other items that have yet to be removed.
In addition, all the asbestos has been removed from the building.
“The next step would be for the contractor to, after the salvage is complete, to then start with the demolition,” Snapp said. The plan remains to have it razed by the end of October.
Last September, Great Bend Economic Development Inc. announced it had purchased the one-time Highland Hotel property at 3017 10th St. with plans to develop a new hotel on the site. Then, in August, the GBED Board approved a contract with Stone Sand of Great Bend for an undisclosed amount to raze the 60,000-plus square foot primarily concrete building.
It sits on a five-acre tract at a prime 10th Street location.
The project (dubbed Project Change) started in January 2022 as a roundtable discussion about the greatest needs in the community, said GBED President Sara Arnberger. GBED promoted a QR code (including a large version of it posted on the hotel’s parking lot sign) with the tag line “are you curious” that led folks to the agency’s website for more information.
The price was not disclosed and was not a matter of public record, and the facility was purchased from Retreat at Great Bend LLC. of Canada.
In the latest report, the building is valued at $266,800 and the land at $89,960, according to the Barton County Appraiser’s Office ORKA site.
Opening in 1964, the Holiday Inn became a Great Bend landmark and local showcase. With the addition of the convention center and office complex in the 1980s, it was an anchor on 10th Street, the venue for meetings, banquets and important civic events.
However, it changed hands several times over the years as such facilities lost relevance. The Holiday Inn became the Highland Mannor Inn, the Parkside Hotel and finally the Great Bend Hotel and Convention Center which closed in 2016.
The next owners, Retreat at Great Bend LLC. of Canada, hoped to develop it into a time-share resort.
There were times when the taxes were not paid on the property and the City of Great Bend had to abate it. There were also reports of criminal activity.
Ultimately, the resort never happened and the property was sold to GBED.
In June 2011, the City Council approved utilizing $500,000 donated by an anonymous group of local residents to purchase the convention center separately from the hotel. This portion has been remodeled and developed into the city’s Events Center.