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Prince Charles Hotel owner wants future for landmark

Posted November 10, 2010

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— Fayetteville’s landmark Prince Charles Hotel, built in 1925, is a window to the past, with famous guests including actor Mickey Rooney and pilot Amelia Earhart.

Owner John Chen, a native of New York City, bought the hotel at auction for $1.9 million three years ago.

Now, for the second time in less than a year, danger signs have appeared on his windows.

In October, firefighters evacuated the hotel after discovering unsafe conditions inside. Inspectors found smoke detectors that didn’t work, ceiling wires that were not covered and fire-resistant material absent from the walls. Chen was cited with 14 violations. 

About 20 tenants who rent rooms by the month were forced to move out.

Chen said the city is exaggerating easily fixable problems.

“None of this would be an issue in New York,” he said.

Chen and city officials have been at odds over a vinyl window he installed in the building. The city filed suit in May to compel Chen to pay more than $45,000 in fines for the window, which does not meet the standards for the historical building.

“I think that’s insane. It doesn’t make any financial sense,” Chen said Wednesday.

The hotel was first ruled unsafe in December, and 70 tenants were moved out for three days while Chen brought it up to code.

At that time, Chen said the city overreacted to what he deemed minor violations. Inspectors also found that he had done demolition work inside without proper permits.

Chen said the city has become overbearing.

"Just leave us along. Let the business owners decide what is best for them," he said.

Chen stopped renting out hotel rooms last year. He said the era of the Prince Charles serving as a hotel is history, but he is committed to the future of the landmark.

“I think this building is lovely. It’s a historic landmark,” he said.

Prince Charles hotel owner talks about building's future Prince Charles hotel owner talks about building's future

Chen said he’s constantly making improvements to the building and plans to convert it into condominiums.

“The real estate market in Fayetteville is still very strong, very demanding. That’s good," he said. 

Nobody can occupy the building until the repairs are made. It’s unclear when that will be, but Chen is required to submit plans detailing his repairs by December.

Fayetteville Fire Marshal Ron Lewis said the city is working with Chen as much as possible. As for Chen's claims that he was singled out, Lewis said that isn't the case. 


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  • Vietnam Vet Nov 15, 2010

    “None of this would be an issue in New York,” he said.
    And we've all seen and heard about the slums and delapidated properties in New York??? Why so much fuss over an old broken down hotel anyway?

  • anne53ozzy Nov 11, 2010

    Assuming the hotel was bought by the same corporation that owns his other businesses, a tax benefit may me the issue for him. Secondly, in terms of these vinyl windows, if they are cheap ones, there will be many problems in the future. However, if he installs windows made properly and resistant to accumulation of moisture, it may make sense.

  • haleibc Nov 11, 2010

    Parking Lot. Problem solved.

  • See Chart Nov 11, 2010

    Writing from NYC ,Mr. Chen does have violations on his
    properties. Yes, this would happen in NYC.
    Why is it that these developers of distressed properties always
    have a surprise when things go wrong.
    I am waiting for Mr. Chen's hotel to open up on W 25th street
    in Manhattan ,he claims to be installing a 2 story fish tank
    in the hallway, hope one does not cut corners on that design.

  • fayettevilledoug Nov 11, 2010

    Both sides are at fault here. Chen is a smart busnessman and knew the deal with the historic rules. The city in turn is making a mole hill into a mountain and the WAVE it is causing will drive people away as well as business from the downtown. This should have been negotiated long ago and settled...Big government trying to make minor decisions and a businessman trying to use a better made product so he can save money. Cant we get on with the real problems in Fayetteville...such as gangs and murder and leave the petty stuff alone.

  • WHEEL Nov 11, 2010

    Maybe the Historical Comission would be happier if the building fell down. 45,000$ fine for 1 window. Now that's just unbelievable even for Government.

  • ghimmy51 Nov 10, 2010

    I don't think I'd want to sleep in one of his NY buildings.

  • lroyal10900 Nov 10, 2010

    He obviously did not do his homework when it came to dealing with "historical" structures. He should have known it would have to fall under certain parameters & regulations that he would HAVE to abide by.

  • Adelinthe Nov 10, 2010

    Chen is always saying he's fixing it up, but he always does so in the cheapest lousiest way possible.

    He wants to do it his way, regardless of code, and that's just now how it's done in this country.

    Thanking God the authorities are watching him closely and are shutting him down if necessary.

    If they weren't, many lives would be at risk because of this cheap uncaring slum landlord.

    God bless.


  • LuvLivingInCary Nov 10, 2010

    just show them. tear it down and put up a fountain.