There’s been so much talk lately about the proposed demolition of the old Boulder City Hospital, it naturally led me to inquire last week about the future plans of the former Mel’s Diner (another building in the Historic District that is set for renovation) for ya! I reached out to Charles Lawson, the owner of Scratch House (who purchased the property from the original owners a little while ago) and happily, he answered all of my questions!
What we often refer to as “Mel’s Diner” is actually the entire structure that previously housed Mel’s Diner, as well as a t-shirt/souvenir store and a doll shop. So in reality, its proper name is the “Browder Property”, as opposed to the name of the restaurant that most recently occupied it.
It was built in 1931 and Charles said that as was the case with so many of the buildings constructed for temporary use while Hoover Dam was being built – it wasn’t “built to last” as far as the materials used – it’s in pretty bad structural shape 84 years later. And now, of course, we have construction codes for safety (no more cloth-wrapped electrical wiring, for instance), access for people with disabilities, etc. and it’s those challenges that make the existing structure unusable for many purposes that would be ideal for this “gateway to Downtown Boulder City” location. So … what to do?
“Baby steps” is the answer. Charles said he DID go to the Historical Preservation Commission meeting a few weeks back and he saw how disappointed many attendees were about the planned demolition of the old hospital and the speed with which that was taking place. So rather than rush into plans to do large-scale renovations immediately (which would no doubt involve major reconstruction of a significant portion of the Browder Property) – he’s opting for a phased roll-out of the smaller building updates that would allow the building to be used in the short term.
In the next 1-2 months, an art gallery (appropriately called the Boulder City Gallery of Art) will open in the former t-shirt and doll shop locations, as only minimal changes are needed to bring those spaces up to code for that use (electrical wiring, etc.). You might have noticed that those upgrades are already underway and as soon as I get more info on the gallery itself, I’ll do a post on that for you, of course.
Once that’s launched, the current plans are to remove the “front façade” of Mel’s Diner – which was apparently an addition to the original building, but keep the original structure intact, as well as the overhang. This, in addition to the existing outdoors seating area, will create an outdoor seating area for the “walk-up style eatery” that is planned for the former Mel’s Diner space. Seemingly, this “walk-up” type of use will require far fewer upgrades to the existing structure to bring it up to code and make it usable.
The long-term plan for the Browder property IS to build something “grand and new” in that location … but to directly quote Charles on this, it will be:
- Something that preserves the historical significance of the Browder Property
- Something that everyone (both residents and tourists of any means) can enjoy
- Something that provides an attractive gateway into Downtown Boulder City in a Grand Old-American Art Deco Style”
And to do that, he’s anticipating that a significant portion of the now current physical structure WOULD need to be deconstructed before it could be renovated to meet modern requirements, but since those decisions don’t need to be rushed into today … they aren’t going to be.
So there you have it … first an art gallery, then a walk-up style eatery. Then … we’ll see! I’ll let you know when I have more info on the art gallery and what might be going into the walk-up eatery!