Thursday, October 14, 2004

Two teenagers arrested in Royal Crown hotel fire



By Dave Eck, Enquirer contributor
and Sheila McLaughlin, Enquirer staff writer

SYCAMORE TWP. - Two teenage boys were arrested and charged Wednesday night with setting fire to the former Royal Crown Hotel and Convention Center.

The teens, both 16, were charged with aggravated arson after admitting to it when detectives questioned them, according to the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office.

Arrest warrants also were signed for a third teen, a 15-year-old boy, in connection with the blaze that caused an estimated $350,000 in damages. Authorities were still searching for him late Wednesday.

And now, for the second time in a year officials are cleaning up after a suspicious fire at the former hotel on Reading Road near Galbraith Road. It has been closed for almost two years and condemned.

Firefighters from nearly a dozen departments spent several hours late Tuesday battling a blaze at the hotel. No injuries were reported.

The same building was damaged by a massive fire in October 2003. That fire was also considered suspicious.

The hotel - once part of the sprawling Carrousel Inn complex - was closed in March 2003 for multiple fire, building, safety and health code violations. The hotel had 129 rooms, multiple conference rooms and an indoor pool.

At the time of the 2003 fire, township officials said they were working with a developer to redevelop the site.

"The township has declared it a nuisance property," Sycamore Township Fire Chief William Jetter said Wednesday. "The Building Department has issued condemnation orders against it. The developer has dragged his feet."

Bear Creek Capital officials disputed reports that their plans to develop the 34.6-acre site into retail, restaurants and a bank had fizzled.

"I think they may be frustrated because they wanted it to happen yesterday. But these things take time. We were hoping to get it done quicker, but we're on track," said Greg Scheper, who handles acquisitions and government affairs for Bear Creek.

The company has experienced some delays and expects to close on the purchase of the property by year's end, he said.

Company officials also continue to negotiate leasing agreements with unnamed prospective tenants, Scheper said.

Reporter Jennifer Edwards contributed to this report. E-mail deck@fuse.net and smclaughlin@enquirer.com




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