City buys Jack Tar property

The Jack Tar Hotel, once the center of things in Orange but devastated by time and Hurricane Ike, will be bought by the city to continue downtown restoration efforts.

Also part of the deal: the hotel’s former parking area where Division Avenue meets Fifth Street.

There officials say a new facility will be built as a senior center and headquarters of the Meals on Wheels program.

For the time being, earlier plans to develop apartments on the property have been scrapped.

Jay Trahan, director of economic development for the city, told The Record, “Once we work through the purchasing process and we go back to the council and [Orange Economic Development Corp.), there will be some environmental studies done. Then based on the finding of the study we will be able to present that information and get advice from the council and the EDC in terms of a future direction.”

The city council and EDC in joint session this week voted to purchase the properties from owner Brad Nichols for $410,000 plus closing costs.

Orange Mayor Brown Claybar said $55,000 will be reimbursed by the federal government and the remaining $355,000 by the EDC.

The popular hotel featured a barbershop, ballroom, stores and a restaurant famous for its prime rib. Behind the building was a garden terrace area with shaded tables and a swimming pool.

Other Jack Tar Hotels were located in Galveston, Marathon, Fla., and San Francisco. One of the chain’s slogans was “Prepare to be Pampered.”

The Orange location was also base of operations for water events such as the Aqua Demons and Debs ski shows in the 1950s. The hotel eventually became home to a number of retirement centers, the last of which closed in 2006.

The city also continues its relationship with the Jeffrey Carbo landscape firm of Alexandria, La., which has worked on similar revitalizations with the cities of Natchitoches, La., and pre-Hurricane Ike Galveston.

Carbo’s Shannon Blakeman said the firm will coordinate meetings between city officials, architects, surveyors and various consultants, along with other entities involved such as Lamar State College-Orange and the Stark Foundation.

The area adjacent to the Lutcher Theater, city hall and riverfront area is now being called Downtown Central Park and will be tied-in to a boardwalk, outdoor pavilion and other attractions.

“We want to make sure we keep things moving forward … and to ensure continuity,” Blakeman said.

The firm will receive from $3,500-$5,000 per month – not to exceed four months or $22,000 – as approved by council/EDC members.