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September 20, 2014

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Joe Downtown: Learned lessons being applied in relocation of John E Carson Hotel residents

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Joe Schoenmann

Downtown Project partners purchased the 65-unit John E. Carson Hotel building at Sixth and Carson in April 2012 for about $2.1 million.

Some 43 residents of the John E Carson Hotel, purchased by Downtown Project investors to be transformed into a multistore retail, food and beverage facility, will get free rent for a month and be moved into a different hotel at the investors’ expense.

In addition, said Kim Schaefer, Downtown Project spokeswoman, the residents of the Carson, 124 S. Sixth St., will be provided with moving supplies and a truck to help them move into the Dragon Hotel, 117 N. Ninth St.

Every Wednesday between now and May 8 — the Carson closes May 9 — a truck will be provided to help with the move into the Dragon, where rents will also be lower.

Schaefer said Dragon Hotel residents would get their first month’s rent free. After that rents will be discounted. What used to cost $475 per month at the Carson will be $450 at the Dragon; and weekly rates will fall from $130 to $120.

Schaefer characterized residents of the Carson, whose interior will be demolished and renovated to become home for a rumored juice store, doughnut shop and other services, as “a community of people who know each other and are friends.”

Some of the residents are older, she added, and they appreciate being able to “stay together.”

Though the new digs will be furnished, Schaefer also said, residents who liked a bed or fixture or television from the Carson will be allowed to use it instead of the Dragon’s furnishings.

Downtown Project has also provided shuttle transportation from the Carson to the Dragon for a few “open house” days to let the residents see if they want to move there.

“We want to make this as seamless a transition as possible,” said Schaefer, adding that some Carson residents have “actually thanked us.”

“It’s the right thing to do,” she also said.

It also demonstrates that Zappos CEO and Downtown Project investor Tony Hsieh meant it when he said “lessons learned” after a dust-up involving Town Terrace residents last year. After Hsieh and investors purchased that property at 214 S. Eighth St., residents complained to the press they were being abruptly evicted to make room for Teach for America corps members.

Supporting Teach for America, which takes bright college graduates and places them in some of the country’s toughest teaching environments, is part of Hsieh’s ambitious education agenda. He gave the group $1.5 million and it moved its headquarters downtown. The hope was that some of the 1,000 teachers recruited would end up living downtown and in Town Terrace.

Hsieh said he wasn’t closely involved in the Town Terrace changes, but when complaints arose the evictions were stopped and those who already left were allowed to move back in.

As in the John E Carson, Town Terrace also houses many people who have lived there for years and have formed something of a community.

“Knowing what we know now, we wouldn’t want to break up the community,” Hsieh had said. “Lessons learned. Do better next time.”

Joe Schoenmann doesn’t just cover downtown, he lives and works there. Schoenmann is Greenspun Media Group’s embedded downtown journalist, working from an office in the Emergency Arts building.

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  1. Mr Hsieh appears to be learning as he goes and tries to right wrongs they made earlier. Better than most do in business.

    Most of his moves are proving to be right and for those that say he is not talking have not taken the time to go downtown to the open meetings. Many plans have been made public, you just have to pay attention.

    Will downtown fit everyone's idea? Nope. Downtown of the past did not fit everyone either. Some are going to like the changes and some won't. So far it is paying off for the businesses down there and appears to be getting better, cleaner and safer.

  2. A business man with a conscience? Can the two coexist within one man?! As I see it, one man is boosting some much needed renovation downtown. If it fails, he's out the money and we have shiny new buildings to play with. If it succeeds, we have some shiny new buildings to play with. Personally, I love being able to walk around downtown now with a little less fear of being mugged or hustled.