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Hutchinson City Council Takes Next Steps on Former Atrium Hotel, Setting Show Cause Hearing for Aug. 20

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By Lucky Kidd

 

HUTCHINSON, Kan. — The Hutchinson City Council took the first official step Tuesday that could ultimately lead to demolition of the former Atrium Hotel and Conference Center on North Lorraine, setting a show cause hearing for Aug. 20 at 9 a.m.

City Manager Enrique Villegas reviewed the steps involved in the process and addressed some misconceptions, including that it’s owned by the city. While the city has made attempts in the past to acquire the property, most recently in 2022 when the city had an offer on the table, it does not own the property. The city walked away from that deal after the owner refused to re-negotiate the price after asbestos was found in it.

Villegas said the unpaid bills for work it had to do to keep the property somewhat safe and collection of that was not the motivating factor in moving forward now. He also noted Hutchinson Police have devoted considerable time to patrolling the property. There are some who have said the city can demolish the Atrium at will. Villegas said there is a specific legal process that has to be followed, and the setting of a hearing date is the first part of that process.

A Hutchinson Fire Department HAZMAT team, along with Villegas and Mayor Greg Fast, did an inspection tour of the building June 21st, a video of which was shown to the Council. That video showed all of the vandalism that’s taken place inside the building that has been closed since 2019. There was also a drone flown over the building that indicated its condition.

The building also has a heavy presence of black mold in the vast majority of rooms inspected. There was also evidence found of someone very recently staying in the building. Evidence was also found that someone may be actively sleeping in the building, given recent evidence of water bottles and chip bags.

Fire Chief Steven Beer said there is already a specific alert within dispatch data noting there is no water to the building, and that the sprinkler system is non-existent. The conditions there are such that unless there is a rescue situation involved his personnel will not enter the structure and will wage a defensive fight only.

The property closest to the Atrium Building is Hutch Putt, a miniature golf course owned by Ad Astra Radio, which also has land on the east side of it. Ad Astra Radio President Chris Shank told the council the Atrium’s current status is impacting the entire neighborhood, including the residential areas to the west of it.

Hutch Putt staff on a daily basis has been dealing with trash and other debris and other trash from the hotel property. He’s also had many visitors from out of state comment about the hotel condition. Staff has witnessed people entering the property, and there have been cases where people have been sleeping on the Hutch Putt grounds.

Chris at Atrium City Council Meeting
Ad Astra Radio President Chris Shank shares how the Atrium building has currently been affecting Hutch Putt along with the entire neighborhood. (Photo Credit: Jessica Shank)

Things have reached a point where Shank said his staff has been instructed to immediately contact police if any problems come up related to people coming onto the property.

It was also stated the night before the HAZMAT team entered the Atrium, four juveniles were caught inside it.

City Attorney Paul Brown said the hearing can’t happen until a set time period has passed, which is why the date Aug. 20 was selected. If the council determines the building is unsafe a resolution will be adopted stating that and setting a time for either repairs to be made to where a certificate of occupancy can be issued or to be demolished.

That time frame under city ordinances is a maximum of 120 days, though it could be as short as 30 days depending on what the Council would decide.

If the property owner does not pay for the demolition costs within a set period that expense would be assessed against property taxes. In the event the property went to a tax sale, Brown said the city could potentially bid what is owed for the property, though the Council preference would be for it to Obe sold to someone who would redevelop it.

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