The Fall Of Camelot
Wednesday, April 11th 2007, 9:51 am CDT
TULSA, Okla. (AP) -- The Camelot Hotel, the blighted Tulsa landmark that once counted Elvis Presley and Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford among its famous guests, is one step closer to being torn down.
The Tulsa Industrial Authority decided on Wednesday to move ahead with a $1 million loan to the owner of the hotel to finance demolition of the aging structure. The cost includes extensive asbestos abatement.
The decision paves the way for the eventual sale of the property and provides a significant economic development opportunity for the city, officials said Wednesday.
Built in the 1960s to resemble a medieval castle, with turrets, moat and drawbridge, the hotel along Interstate 44 became a popular spot for banquets, honeymoons and special occasions.
The 330-room hotel had been closed since the 1990s and had fallen into disrepair, irking many neighbors who viewed it as an eyesore.
"This has been a health and safety concern for some time," said City Councilman Cason Carter, who represents the district the Camelot is in. "It's been a blight on our city."
In 1993, Maharishi Ayur-Ved University, which teaches transcendental meditation, bought the building for $1.15 million with plans to restore it.
But the abandoned building instead became a steady target for burglars and vandals. By 1996, the Tulsa City-County Health Department condemned the place due to health and safety code violations.
"Somebody told me the rats in there are big enough to have social security cards," joked Don Himelfarb, the city's economic development director.
Attorney George Hooper, who represents the Maharishi, said his client had been trying to sell the property for some time, but potential buyers wanted to wait and see how much of its land the Interstate 44 widening project would take.
While many folks remember better days at the Camelot Hotel, the people who live and work around the building now are happy to see it go.
"Not a good place to be the next store neighbor, I'm excited," said Jodee Winkle.
Joshua Pack, on the other hand, will miss the Camelot, "I just really loved it because it was kind of transportive, it took me to a different place, just completely different from any place in Tulsa at the time."
According to the initial term sheet, if the demolition costs exceed $1 million, Hooper's client will be responsible for the difference. Also, his client will have to repay the loan within one year from the time it is made.
"Right now, you're going to transform an eyesore into something that looks pretty darn good," said Himelfarb, on the land's potential.
Officials say the job of removing asbestos is planned for July, with the demolition expected to be completed by the end of September.