A developer known for residential and commercial construction told members of the Washington Planning and Zoning Commission Monday that he is turning his attention to a Washington landmark.
Shawn Mayall, of S-K Contractors Inc., said he and his wife, Victoria, are purchasing the Elijah McLean’s property from its current owner, Tony Bequette, who has owned the property and operated an event venue there since 2017. The sale is expected to close in the spring, Mayall said. He declined to disclose the sale price.
The property and the historic home, which was built in 1839, once belonged to the property’s namesake, Elijah McLean, a prominent Washington physician.
“The reality is that the current owners have invested $3.5 million into the property to make it what it is today,” Mayall said. “I’m planning on investing between $2.5 (million) to $3 million on this property.”
Mayall told planning commissioners that he hopes to build a three-story, 15-bed, extended-stay hotel on the northeast corner of the McLean’s property adjacent to Front Street to cater to local industries and businesses that need to house potential employees or clients. With the hotel expected to open in 2022, construction would match the “historic look” of Elijah McLean’s property, he said.
The announcement from Mayall came amid nearly two hours of public testimony regarding the potential rezoning of the Elijah McLean site at 600 W. Front St. and concerns that any changes to the property would further exacerbate parking problems in the adjacent residential neighborhood. More than a half dozen neighbors spoke at the meeting, urging the commission to reject any zoning change request or to block further development.
Mayall said he plans to scale back the event venue operation at Elijah McLean’s, which he and city leaders said would likely reduce parking congestion in the area.
“We want to be a small event venue where we have small gatherings,” said Mayall, who is envisioning a venue that would hold up to 75 people and could be used for wedding rehearsal dinners, family reunions, wedding anniversaries, funeral luncheons, class reunions and other similar events.
“We’re not heading toward a large venue or even wanting to be a large venue. The large venues in Washington should be the Elks Lodge and the KC Hall, not Elijah’s,” Mayall said. As part of his redevelopment plan, Mayall is planning on reopening a restaurant in Elijah McLean’s and keeping a 10-bed hotel open in the existing buildings.
Mayall and his attorney, Sean Brinker, appeared before the commissioners to request that they extend the downtown C-3 zoning to include the Elijah McLean’s property.
According to city officials, due to existing parking requirements — which are determined by the current usage of the buildings — and zoning regulations, Mayall would not be able to build his hotel without first reducing the usage of the building or creating additional off-street parking. The property is currently zoned C-2, which does allow for a hotel.
As a C-2 property, Mayall is required to provide one parking space for each room at the current hotel and the new hotel he plans to construct. He is also required to provide — per city code — one space for every five seats in a banquet reception hall.
“If he is really getting it down to 75 people, then he won’t need as much parking as he did before,” said Washington Community and Economic Development Director Sal Maniaci. If parking requirements are met, Maniaci said Mayall would not necessarily need to seek approval from Planning and Zoning Commission but rather could submit plans to city staff for a building permit.
Mayall, on Monday, said he wants the Elijah McLean’s property to be included in the C-3 zone, now known as downtown district.
“I don’t feel I need to submit any plans to get this into the district,” Mayall said. He and Brinker suggested that McLean’s should have been included in the downtown district but was left out because of an “unfair” standard.
“Elijah McLean’s is part of downtown Washington and should be held to the same standards as everyone else in the district,” Mayall said. Rezoning the property to a C-3 zone allows zero lot lines, meaning that a building can be constructed on the property line. The district also allows for no setbacks, meaning Mayall’s proposed hotel could be built immediately adjacent to Front Street. Being in the district also eliminates parking requirements, which has been a source of contention for years.
“Having off-street parking encourages the demolition of historic buildings,” said Maniaci, who said 60 percent of Washington’s historic buildings have been razed for parking spaces. “Obviously, we don’t want to lose any more of our historic buildings to a parking lot.”
Washington Mayor Sandy Lucy, who sits on the planning commission, said the city would “welcome” private investment into downtown Washington.
“I think that if someone is willing to invest those types of dollars into our community and especially into our downtown area, that would be a win for the entire community,” Lucy said after the meeting. Mayall’s announcement marks the second time this month that a developer has announced plans for a second downtown hotel.
Lisa and Dale Griefe, who own and operate the River Sirens Hotel at 4 E. Main St. downtown, recently purchased the former Missourian building at 14 West Main Street. The Greifes said they plan to redevelop part of the property as a second location for their River Sirens Hotel.
City leaders said they are willing to work with Mayall to help find ways to alleviate the parking congestion, including the expansion of a public parking lot on the north side of the Union Pacific rail line, creating additional parking stalls on Stafford Street and a possible staircase from Stafford to the Elijah McLean’s property.
Ultimately, commissioners voted 7-1 to table the zoning change to allow for Mayall to meet with city staff to discuss the project. Commissioner Carolyn Witt voted against tabling the measure, saying that “nothing she heard tonight had changed her mind” about the parking problems.
A hearing planned for Monday night’s Washington City Council regarding the project has been canceled, but neighbors at the meeting say they will likely still attend the meeting to express their concerns to the city council.