City taking over ownership of historic hotel

GULFPORT — Gulfport’s City Council has voted to take ownership of a closed, historic hotel that needs major repairs, although a current owner says that effort will be fought.

The Markham hotel was built in the 1920s. In later years it was used for office space but now officials describe it as a blighted home for vagrants and rodents. It was badly damaged in 2005 by Hurricane Katrina

Mayor George Schloegel says the city hopes to have the old hotel renovated and re-opened, although demolition also is a possibility.

“We don’t see Gulfport making a long term investment of any taxpayers’ money,” Schloegel said. “We would see that if Gulfport gets it under eminent domain some of those investors that wanted to buy it would be given the opportunity to buy it. We would try to flip it and recoup our money. The main thing we want to do is get it out of the status quo.”

The building’s part owner, Louisiana attorney Michael Eckstein, says he and his partners would fight an effort by the city to take the hotel. The city says Eckstein hasn’t responded to demands for repairs, but Eckstein accuses Gulfport of denying permits for repairs.

“We are taking steps,” said Eckstein. “We are talking to developers and have been very active. We would like to be moving quicker, but the economy is very difficult right now.”

Eckstein said he and his partners will challenge eminent domain action in court.

The Markham Hotel opened on Jan. 31, 1927. The hotel was named for Charles H. Markham, a former president of the Illinois Central Railroad.

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