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story.lead_photo.caption Problems identified at the Arlington Resort Hotel & Spa in Hot Springs included electrical issues, fire code violations and cracks in the building’s exterior. - Photo by Mara Kuhn

Hot Springs officials have backed off on their threat to close the Arlington Hotel Resort and Spa on Nov. 8 and instead have given the new owners of the landmark hotel a timeline in which to develop a plan to fix the problems that prompted the threat.

In a letter late last week to Sky Capital Group, which bought the 93-year-old hotel in July, City Attorney Brian Albright stood by the city's identification of problems it had deemed a hazard to public safety.

But the latest letter, Albright wrote, supersedes the Nov. 8 shutdown threat.

Instead the hotel has 20 days from last Thursday to hire a "registered design professional," such as an engineer or architect, who'll then have 15 days to evaluate problems, and then 10 days to submit the evaluation and a repair plan.

"Nobody wants to see the Arlington close," Albright wrote, later calling the hotel "an iconic structure" and a "destination for residents and tourists alike for more than 100 years."

"We hope this will continue for another 100 years," Albright wrote.

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Al Rajabi, chief executive officer of Sky Capital, didn't return telephone calls Monday but in a statement said he was already ahead of the city's timeline.

"Though I am confident the hotel is safe, I am committed to moving even more quickly than the city has requested and ... am already in conversations with an engineering firm to give an opinion as early as this week," Rajabi wrote.

Rajabi has been critical of the city in recent weeks, especially since the shutdown threat. The city, he has said, never made such a threat against the previous owners, a local family, despite the hotel's problems being many years old and caused by neglect and lack of maintenance.

Rajabi has said he plans some $30 million in renovations to the Arlington. At nearly 500 rooms, it is the state's largest hotel.

Not long after buying the Arlington, Rajabi completed repairs allowing the reopening of 47 rooms that had failed inspections, mostly because of electrical problems.

In February, a few months before the hotel's sale for a reported $5 million, the city cited a 2016 engineering study identifying five specific areas of the hotel's exterior that, because of water leaks, made the hotel "unsafe and dangerous."

Portions of the hotel's walls and towers were in danger of collapsing this winter with the freezing and thawing of water that streams behind the brick and stucco walls because of leaky roofs, damaged flashing or poor gutter systems, according to Hot Springs officials.

The Nov. 8 shutdown date was selected, the city said, because of National Weather Service forecasts predicting a 50 percent chance of freezing temperatures by then.

"It cannot be rushed if you want to do it right, which is what I'm committed to do," Rajabi said in his statement Monday. "I will, however, rush to give the city, our guests, staff and neighbors reassurance that the hotel is safe. We continue to work in good faith with the city to pursue our goal of restoring the Arlington to its original glory."

Rajabi appealed the city's Aug. 10 letter to the Board of Adjustments and Appeals, saying the threat to close the hotel violated the city's procedures on addressing unsafe structures. That appeal is pending.

The "underlying purpose" of the Aug. 10 letter was to provide "notice of the unsafe conditions" but that parts of the letter "may have inadequately comported" with city code, Albright wrote.

While the Nov. 8 deadline is no more, Albright said Monday it is important that the repair work to the hotel's walls be completed before the next "freeze-and-thaw cycle."

He said he couldn't speculate on what would happen if the work wasn't completed in time but that he was encouraged by Rajabi's statement and apparent efforts to get city permits for repairs.

"Obtaining permits implies repairs are going to be made," Albright said. "We are optimistic that this is going to be a good thing for everybody. It sounds like he's on it."

Business on 09/19/2017

Print Headline: City gives Arlington a fix-it timeline

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