Rifle rejoices as historic hotel gets new lease on life | PostIndependent.com

Rifle rejoices as historic hotel gets new lease on life

Smiles and grins broke out all over Rifle Thursday after the long-vacant Midland Hotel was sold.

“We’re ecstatic,” said Rifle Mayor Keith Lambert. “We couldn’t be more pleased.”

The historic downtown hotel was purchased by Israel Shapira for $100,000. Shapira said he plans to convert the hotel’s ground floor to restaurant and retail space, and the upper floor to office space. Shapira said he hopes to begin work on the building in six to eight weeks, and have the project completed in about a year.

“This place is going to be so much different,” said Shapira. “It’s exciting.”

The hotel had sat vacant for two decades, said Rifle city manager Selby Myers. Drew Sakson, a part owner in the hotel before selling it to Shapira, said the building was not condemned, but the Rifle City Council told him it would force abatement proceedings if he didn’t tear down the building or fix it up.

“With abatement, the city tears down the building, then hands you the bill,” Sakson said. “I don’t like to tear down buildings.”

The hotel has been through several owners in the past 20 years. Sakson, who owned Florida hotels in the past, said he and a partner bought the Midland in 1996, hoping to reopen it as a hotel. Soon after the purchase, Sakson’s partner switched his focus to larger hotels. “I gave up on it as a hotel two years ago,” Sakson said.

Several purchase deals fell through in the past few years. Sakson said he recently dropped the price from $185,000 to $100,000 after an inspector found asbestos in the building’s plaster and other locations.

Mayor Lambert said the Midland Hotel project is important to Rifle’s ongoing efforts to boost its economy and reinvigorate the downtown area.

“To have someone come in here and make the hotel a part of downtown again is exciting,” Lambert said.

The Midland sale coincides with Wal-Mart’s recent announcement it will build a superstore inside the Rifle city limits on Interstate 70. Lambert said Rifle has wanted a Wal-Mart for the sales taxes it will generate and new jobs.

“As a community, to have a stronger retail base is a real step forward. It’s tremendous,” Lambert said.

Israel Shapira is a structural engineer who owned a construction business in New York for 20 years before moving to the Roaring Fork Valley three years ago. He lives on Missouri Heights, north of Carbondale.

Since moving to the valley, Shapira has built a pair of $1 million spec homes on Missouri Heights.

Shapira said he’ll keep as much of the original hotel intact as he can, but admits there’s not much left of the downstairs. “But we’ll try to retain the facade,” Shapira said.

Like Lambert, Shapira is optimistic about Rifle’s economic future. “Rifle is probably the most the most promising area right now,” Shapira said.

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