|By Owen Covington, Messenger-Inquirer,
Owensboro, Ky.McClatchy-Tribune Business News
Nov. 29, 2006 - A Triplett Street hotel that has been at the center of a court battle for more than a year will be auctioned next month to cover back tax payments and outstanding mortgage costs.
The former Gabe's Tower Inn at 1926 Triplett St. will be sold at public auction Dec. 18 over the objections of a developer who planned to renovate the 13-story building into luxury condominiums.
The auction, which was first advertised Sunday, has already generated about a dozen inquiries, said John Kurtz with Kurtz Auction & Realty Co., which is handling the sale.
"They seem to have a notion that they have a viable plan for the property," Kurtz said. "The majority of them want to change the usage."
There are several local parties that have expressed interest in the property, Kurtz said, as well as some in Florida, New York and California.
Kurtz said those buyers he has spoken with plan to change the function of the property and renovate it into apartments or condominiums, an assisted living facility or perhaps a conference center.
Other "rehab" companies have also expressed an interest in the property with plans to make repairs on the 42-year-old hotel and then resell it, Kurtz said.
The hotel includes restaurants and kitchens on the first and 12th floors, a bar and pool on the top floor, and 120 hotel rooms.
The property has suffered water damage from leaks and burst pipes and has not been consistently maintained since it was closed by health department officials last fall.
"It's not an unblemished property," Kurtz said. "(But) I don't think the last three months have diminished its value at all."
The legal battle over the property began in November 2005 when the former owners of the property, local corporation Cypress Connection, sued developer David Mirani and his company, Regency Tower Inc.
Cypress Connection filed the lawsuit after not receiving payment from Mirani, who negotiated to buy the property for $1.5 million and closed the deal in September 2005.
As part of the lawsuit, the motel was ordered sold in July by Daviess Circuit Judge Tom Castlen to satisfy outstanding mortgage payments and property taxes. The motel's last tax assessment put its value at $408,000.
The hotel's sale was postponed after Mirani filed for bankruptcy in August, just days before the auction was scheduled. That case has since been dismissed and following an October hearing, Castlen again ordered the motel to be auctioned.
Kurtz said he is not certain if potential buyers will receive a preview of the property before the Dec. 18 auction in part because of Mirani's actions in recent months.
In October, Mirani was arrested after threatening to shoot a firefighter who came onto the property and later pleaded guilty to the charge in exchange for probation.
Mirani has said previously that he plans to purchase the hotel at auction, and has filed several unsuccessful appeals to overturn Castlen's order and to stop the auction of the property.
Kurtz said he has left a message for Mirani about conducting a tour of the hotel before the auction, but has not heard back from him.
During an interview Tuesday, Mirani said he has already made plans to sell the property to another group, with the proceeds going to settle the lawsuit brought by Cyprus Connection.
For several months, Mirani has had a "For Sale By Owner" sign posted on the top floors of the hotel.
Mirani said he has also filed an appeal of Castlen's latest order to sell the hotel at auction and will fight the property's sale. Attorneys for the banks holding liens on the property have filed motions to dismiss Mirani's latest appeal based on it being deficient and redundant.
"Either way, it's just not going to happen," Mirani said of the Dec. 18 auction.
The former Gabe's Tower Inn will be auctioned at 1 p.m. Dec. 18 by Kurtz Auction & Realty at the hotel at 1926 Triplett St. More information about the property can be found at http://www.kurtzauction.com.
Copyright (c) 2006, Messenger-Inquirer, Owensboro, Ky.
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