City Council candidate Mike Signer stood before the skeletal Landmark Hotel, an unwelcome landmark on the Downtown Mall since 2009, and quoted the graffiti scrawled on its boarded up side: “We’re fed up.” And he promised to explore all legal actions for resolving the situation, including eminent domain.
Flanked by fellow Dem candidates Kathy Galvin and Wes Bellamy, Signer denounced the structure owned by Atlanta developer John Dewberry as an “eyesore,” and said, “The status quo is unacceptable. Having a derelict, dangerous and ugly abandoned building looming in the heart of our major commercial and civic area sector impacts our community’s quality of life and is an embarrassing symbol of inaction in the city.”
Dewberry did not return a call for comment. The Waynesboro-born former football star bought the Landmark for $6.25 million in 2012 after CNET founder Halsey Minor’s plans for a luxury hotel derailed. Dewberry said he would begin work on what will become the Hotel Dewberry when he finished the development of a Hurricane Floyd-damaged federal post office building he bought in downtown Charleston in 2008. Work on that project began last November, according to the Post and Courier in Charleston.
Signer has run out of patience with Dewberry’s timetable, and says the developer “has already broken several deadlines and promises” and there has been “silence” on the Dewberry front. “That’s unacceptable,” said the candidate, who added that citizen complaints about the would-be hotel are a frequent refrain on the campaign trail.
He proposes a six-point project resolution framework to avoid such messes in the future and outlines its application to the Landmark. That would include working with Dewberry Capital, assessing the state of the exposed infrastructure and whether it’s even buildable at this point, exploring all practical and legal options, and within a year, executing a plan that either completes the hotel or uses the property for something else.
In the past, the city has accepted Dewberry’s timetable for completion of the mall property, contingent on finishing the Charleston hotel, a “vague” scenario, said Signer. “I think the consideration of legal action is part of the plan.” Even eminent domain? Said Signer, “That’s one of the tools I want to examine.”