Former DHS building on Spruce St. to become ‘upscale’ hotel

       Until last year, El Paso County's Department of Human Services (DHS) had used the four-story building at 105 N. Spruce St. to assist about 500 low-income people a day.

The front of the four-story, county-owned building at 105 N. Spruce St. as it looked this week. At far left is the sign for the Denny's on Bijou Street; at far right is the Antlers-Hilton building downtown.
Westside Pioneer photo

       The future may be close to the opposite.
       In a deal worked out with El Paso County, Ted Jarosz, lead owner of the Clarion Hotel at Bijou and Spruce streets, plans to buy the former DHS building for $2.4 million and begin a remodel this year to make it a hotel “more upscale” than the Clarion, he said this week.
       The structure's footprint would remain the same, but inside, “we'll be pretty much gutting the entire building,” Jarosz said.
       The anticipated opening date is spring of 2013. Plans call for the hotel to have about 100 rooms.
       Jarosz is seeking to have the site become a franchise for a major hotel chain. Two that he is talking with are the Intercontinental (also called IHG, which represents the Holiday Inn) and the Hilton, he said.
       The Jarosz Family Limited Partnership (consisting of Jarosz and his father, who's retired) bought the Clarion in 2004.
       Asked why he decided to take a chance with the former DHS building, Jarosz replied, “That's a good question. I look at that building every day. It spoke to me that it would be a good building for a hotel, that it would be a good project. It is well built, made of concrete and steel, and has good visibility.”
       In addition to the building, the property now consists mostly of a paved parking lot, with about 300 spaces. The Clarion is about half a block away. Both are off I-25, with easy acess to the Bijou interchange.
       The sale announcement came at a Board of County Commissioners meeting Jan. 31. After a short staff presentation, the five-member board voted its unanimous approval.
       City Attorney Bill Louis explained that the agreement was the result of negotiations that had started last spring. (The board has also been involved in executive session discussions since then.) At that time, the county was not actively marketing the 2.44-acre property because a new appraisal, putting the value at $2.8 million, was actually lower than a previous one. So the $2.4 million offer was only pursued after Jarosz agreed to accept a “safeguard” requirement to obtain a building permit before closing, Louis said.
       “This was designed so that the building won't be held for investment in a down economy,” the attorney elaborated.
       Contacted after the meeting, Jarosz said he plans to have the building permit in hand by June. He expects the remodel to take about eight months.
       Louis and County Budget Officer Nicola Sapp listed several benefits resulting from the sale as well as the building's speedy return to use:
  • An improvement to the area.
  • Added sales and use taxes.
  • About 100 construction jobs during the remodel.
  • 30 to 40 permanent jobs when the hotel opens.
  • Elimination (through the sale) of the county's outstanding securities of $2.35 million on the old DHS complex.
  • Elimination of the county's annual lease and maintenance cost on the building of $282,400.
           Commissioner Sallie Clark, whose residence is less than a mile from the building, said she is pleased at the monetary aspects and that the county will no longer have a “white elephant sitting there.” Also, “the neighborhood should be improved because it won't be a vacant building, with things going on that aren't favorable to our community.”
           The DHS relocated in mid-2011 to the county's newly opened Citizens Service Center, 1675 W. Garden of the Gods Road. That emptied the 105 N. Spruce building as well as most of the nearby county-owned building at 17 N. Spruce. According to an El Paso County government spokesperson, “The county will retain ownership of the building at 17 N. Spruce, which provides office space for services of Goodwill Industries, which are provided under contract to DHS clients.”

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