Glasgow Daily Times, Glasgow, KY

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July 8, 2014

Dr. Gordon Baylis: Mentz Hotel could become B&B

PARK CITY — A Western Kentucky University official is “cautiously optimistic” the historic Mentz Hotel could become a bed and breakfast.

Dr. Gordon Baylis, president of the WKU Research Foundation, spoke to Park City commissioners again Monday night about the idea, continuing a discussion that has been underway since the beginning of the year.

“We’re getting closer to something that will work,” he said.

The goal is to turn the Mentz into a 12-bedroom bed and breakfast, with space on the historic hotel’s first floor being used for a restaurant. Previous discussions involved incorporating the Barren River Imaginative Museum of Science into the facility, but BRIMS is no longer part of the plans, according to Park City Mayor David Lyons.

The university’s interest in the project began when BRIMS was interested in renovating the Mentz so it could serve as a venue for the museum. Baylis new people who sat on the museum’s board of directors and became aware that the board could not do the project on their own, he said.

“I was willing to explore it,” he said. “We are still exploring. This isn’t a done deal by any means. Lots of pieces still have to fall into place.”

Baylis proposed a partnership between the city, the WKU Research Foundation and Gary and Karin Baldwin-Carroll, owners of Hall Place and Main Street bed and breakfasts in Glasgow, that would operate as a limited-liability company and oversee the operation of the bed and breakfast and restaurant.

“We’ve talked to architects. We’ve talked with contractors. We have a couple who will partner with us and who are very experienced in running B-and-Bs,” Baylis said. “They’ve renovated two historic properties in Glasgow. They run them as B-and-Bs.”

According to a handout Baylis gave commissioners, the Mentz, which is adjacent to the ruins of Bell’s Tavern, was built in 1885. He thinks it would take about $750,000 to renovate the hotel.

“We think we can just make this work,” he said, adding that he has spoken with representatives of the Peoples Bank in Glasgow about securing a loan for the project.  

In addition, the city, which owns the hotel, would need to sell it to the WKU Research Foundation for $1.

Baylis also asked that the company be exempted from paying city and county taxes for the first five years and that the city loan the research foundation $50,000 to fund startup costs and initial renovations, which he said can’t wait until later.

Baylis also asked the city for free access to Bell’s Tavern so it may be used for events such as weddings.

“We are cautiously optimistic. I can’t say we are certain yet, but we are cautiously optimistic,” he said.

There are plans for WKU students to work at the Mentz as interns once the company is up and running.

Park City Fire Chief Ronnie Stinson asked if the city would be able to recoup the $50,000 loan after a period of time.

“It would have to be an unsecured loan,” Baylis said.

The first two to three years of operation will be the roughest, but Baylis said he is confident the company will be operating in the black within five years. He would like to start the renovation in September and be open by spring.

Other questions from the audience ranged from parking issues, hours of restaurant operation, rumors of ghosts in the building and local job opportunities. Despite the questions, audience members spoke in favor of the project.

“If you don’t do something, it’s going to be like the hotel at Horse Cave,” said Joe Bailey, a Park City resident, referring to the Owens Hotel that once sat along U.S. 31-W in Horse Cave but was eventually razed.

Aside from Stinson, city commissioners also expressed concern about the $50,000 loan from the city.

“I like the idea but that $50,000 concerns me very much,” said Leon Higginbotham.

Lyons pointed out if the city retained ownership of the Mentz, it could apply for grant funding to help with the renovation project.

“So perhaps you can apply for a grant to do some of the urgent repairs on the outside and then sell it to us?” Baylis said.

“That is a possibility,” Lyons said.

Two grant funding possibilities are Community Development Block Grants and economic development grants, he said.

As for the $50,000 loan, Lyons said that is part of the “fine print” that will have to be taken into consideration.

“We really spent years laying the groundwork, waiting for something like this to happen,” Lyons said.

Commissioners took no action regarding Baylis’ proposal. The commission is scheduled to meet in a special-called session later in the month to discuss other city issues and possibly Baylis’ proposal.

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