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Rehabilitation to begin at historic Shawnee hotel

Updated:
SHAWNEE, Okla. (AP) _ Rehabilitation work is expected to begin this month on a 75-year-old hotel listed on the National Register of Historic Places, developers said.

The National Park Service has approved the architectural plans to transform the nine-story, 200-room Aldridge Hotel into 62 apartments for low- to medium-income senior citizens. When finished, the building will have 44 one-bedroom apartments, 16 two-bedroom apartments and an activity center, which will be built in the hotel's grand ballroom.

``We are moving forward,'' said Bob Thorpe, vice president of development for ERC Development Group LLC of Fort Smith, Ark., which owns the building.

ERC will receive $5 million in state and federal tax credits and historic tax credits to aid in financing the project, which has been estimated to cost between $7 million and $8 million.

The first step will include installing an interior fire escape through nine concrete floors. Workers will also need to demolish some walls to create the apartments.

Thorpe said a superintendent for the project has been assigned and should be in place within one or two weeks. Work on the building's roof should start within the next 30 days, he said.

``We're starting to work on our windows and then we have to get to work on our roof,'' Thorpe said. ``So we have lots of things that are going to start happening real quick.''

Thorpe said he expected the apartments to be ready for occupants in a year to 14 months. To receive the tax credits, the rehabilitation must be finished by the end of 2005, Thorpe said.

The hotel was built by oil man Hilton Phillips and opened to the public in February 1929. It was sold to the Aldridge Hotel Corporation in 1930.

The Aldridge hosted many social events and housed the Shawnee Chamber of Commerce, business offices, a coffee shop, beauty salon, cleaners and a sit-down restaurant. A dark wood-lined bar inhabited the basement.

It had its heyday in the 1940s and 1950s, but fell into tough times by the 1970s as owners struggled to pay water bills. In the 1980s, it became the Aldridge Hotel and Apartments. Eventually, it fell into such disrepair that public officials ordered it closed.

The move toward rehabilitating the hotel began in 1997, when the Central Oklahoma Community Action Agency purchased the building.

ERC was originally granted the tax credits from the Oklahoma Housing Finance Agency in June 2003, and company officials estimated work would start in about 90 days. Thorpe said the company underestimated how long it would take to get the plans ready for submission to the National Park Service and State Historic Preservation Office.

``What we didn't fully have a handle on was the amount of work it was going to take to get the plans done,'' Thorpe said.
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