TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – It’s one of the first sights to catch your eye as you cruise into Topeka and it isn’t pretty.
The Red Carpet Inn and Suites was once a thriving downtown hotel…now it sits in ruins.
It has been an investigation full of surprises as KSNT News’ Austin Barnes dug into why this boarded up and dilapidated building has been left to rot for more than a decade and KSNT News has uncovered what the City of Topeka is actually left to take care of this unsightly structure.
It’s a shell of its former self, the only guests checking into this gutted hotel are trash and weeds.
As downtown Topeka looks to revitalize with things like pocket parks and even a brand new hotel, the people of the capital city want to know why this building has been abandoned in the heart of their town and why city leaders haven’t done anything about it.
Originally opened as a Holiday Inn in the 1970’s, the hotel was fully operating until a cocktail lounge fire ended business in 2005.
Currently valued at $690,000, the property, which sits in the backyard of the Shawnee county detention center has changed hands several times over the years – but with each pass of the deed the building stays vacant.
KSNT News tracked the current owners to a Motel 6, 900 miles away in Dickinson, North Dakota. Multiple attempts to contact them to ask why they haven’t done anything with their Topeka building were unsuccessful.
Local leaders are just as frustrated with this forgotten property but indicate the problem is still too minor for them to solve according to city law.
“It can appear to the community that we’re not concerned and we’re not interested and that’s the furthest thing from the truth. But from the flip side of that, from the actual administration perspective how, I mean is it realistic to think that the city of Topeka is going to extradite somebody from North Dakota on a case to have them remove the tree from the top of their building?”
KSNT News has uncovered dozens of property code violations that have piled up against the building since 2008.
Six weed cases, two sanitation cases and one graffiti case since 2015 alone.
Over 40 violations in the last eight years.
Sticking the property owners with a pretty pricy bill and eating up the time of city workers who clean the mess up each and every time.
“To mow the property ranges from $250 to $350 and the same for sanitation depending on the amount of debris that we had to pick up and after the first violation of the year and an administrative penalty that starts out at $100 which is just part of the fine increased to $200 if we have to do it more than once.”
Those fees have led to tens of thousands of dollars in fines over the years, all paid for in full by checks from the property owners received by mail. No questions asked because the fines are paid, trash is hauled off and weeds are mowed down. There’s no legal ground for further action against the property owners for choosing not to rehab this forgotten hotel.
Topeka law clearly states there’s no time limit on how long a building like this can sit boarded up and empty.
So why hold on to a piece of property some might call a junkyard? A local realtor says he’s had the chance to talk with the hotel’s owners and the reason they’re clinging to the deed could all boil down to savvy business dealing.
“They have a property and there’s value to it and they have a location and there’s value to it. There’s not too many properties of this size sitting on the corner of I-70 and with visibility to the interstate immediately next to downtown, we can’t list them there’s not any other for sale that you can buy.
Wheeling and dealing aside, the people of Topeka have plenty to say about what leaving this violation hotbed among the skyline means for the city’s future.
The realtor tells KSNT News these owners have their price and would be willing to sell their property if the right offer came along.
A detailed list of violations along with how the property has decreased in value over the years can be found HERE