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City may ease CC parking snag

by Tom Coombe

Ely city officials are working on a concept that would add badly-needed parking for the hotel being developed at the old Community Center building.

On Monday, the city’s project committee discussed the concept, which would involve utilizing the old Ford garage property on East Conan Street for additional parking.

When council members addressed the matter Feb. 6, city clerk-treasurer and operations director Harold Langowski hinted “there will be a very feasible solution.”

The garage building has been vacant for many years and is in private ownership, but the city may get involved in the project in an effort that would clear the property and create parking spaces for the proposed 18-room hotel at the historic landmark about a block away.

“It is only a concept currently,” Langowski said Thursday. “I spoke with Matt (Stupnik) about leasing space if we are able to accommodate parking in the vicinity. I believe this would solve the off street parking issue and also remove a blighted structure.”

Stupnik bought the Community Center in 2022 and is moving forward with a $3.4 million project that would turn the landmark into a hotel, but he’s struggling to find property for needed parking.

To date, Stupnik has been unable to reach agreement with any adjacent property owners for the purchase of land that could be turned into off-street parking.

Discussion at a recent planning and zoning commission turned to other ideas, including the possible use of the city-owned lot adjacent to the Ely Senior Center. That idea has been met with opposition, however, from Senior Center leaders.

The city previously sold the building, which is on the National Historic Register of Historic Places, to the K America Foundation, which announced plans for a Korean cultural center.

That agreement, struck in 2018, fell apart and the city regained ownership and put the building back on the market, with Stupnik stepping forward in 2022.

He plans an expensive overhaul of the Community Center, which has been vacant for nearly a decade, and turn it into a boutique hotel.

Decades ago, the Community Center served as an Ely hotspot, housing not only the library and offices but a kitchen, cafeteria and auditorium that were used for numerous community events,

It has been vacant since 2014, when the city closed the building after moving the library to a new facility across the street from City Hall.

Efforts to repurpose the building have stalled and the building needs extensive renovations and repairs, estimated at $2.75 million in a 2014 study.

The city commissioned a reuse study that can be found on the city’s website, and ideas have run the gamut, from using the building for its original purposes to perhaps turning it into rental housing, a hotel or community garden.

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