Below are news articles from 2008 – 2011, kept here for archive purposes.

11/24/2011

Eureka Inn gets ready for the holidays 2012
Historical hotel warm and toasty after chimney fix

By: Donna Tam/The Times-Standard
Posted: 11/24/11 02:18:33 AM PST

Eureka Inn events coordinator Leanna Campbell stepped into the spacious lobby of the hotel to take control of the situation.

“Whoo, it’s cold,” she said, before taking out a remote to start the inn’s new fireplace. With a touch of a button, the new gas fireplace lit up with a roaring fire.

After the Jan. 9, 2010, earthquake shook the hotel’s chimney, the city condemned it, and the chimney was out of commission. Bill Lenhoff of Cornerstone Construction in Eureka took on the project, searching out materials for months and demolishing the structure to build anew. He said it took three days to tear down the old chimney and carry away the 150,000 pounds of brick.

He overlaid the original hearth work and built a raised base that can be used as seating.

Lenhoff, who has lived in the area for more than 20 years, said he is glad to contribute to a community institution like the Eureka Inn. He said the fireplace is a big part of thes inn’s traditions and an important one for the holidays.

“The whole area has sat in front of the fireplace at one time or another,” Lenhoff said.

The completion of the fireplace came just in time for the hotel’s holiday celebrations, including the highly anticipated Christmas tree, which Campbell said should be up by Dec. 3, when the inn will host the McKinleyville Community Choir.

It adds to the host of new features at the Eureka Inn, which now has a full bar open on Fridays and Saturdays at its Redwood Lounge. The Inn is also preparing to open up its first floor rooms, which include three rooms that are in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Campbell said the hotel is still working to get the Bristol Rose Cafe open for business.

Lenhoff said he remembers the hotel as a community hub where a variety of events were held, and its importance to the community has been apparent to him during the repairs. Lenhoff said that when he was looking for materials for the chimney, several businesses offered materials at discounted prices.

Last year, the inn celebrated the holidays with its first tree lighting in six years. Current Eureka Inn owner Libo Zhu bought the property in September 2009 with the goal of restoring the hotel to its original grandeur, something that was lost when tax defaults led to its foreclosure in 2004. For many people, that spirit centered around a tree blanketed with decorations that could fill out the high ceiling of the hotel lobby.

Lenhoff said working with Zhu has shown him that Zhu is dedicated to continuing the traditions of the inn.

“He is completely determined to bring this place back to its former glory,” Lenhoff said.

05/19/2010

Eureka Inn Holds Grand Reopening 2010

By: Matt Drange/The Times-Standard
Posted: 05/19/10

Dozens of Eureka’s elite gathered for the grand reopening of the Eureka Inn on Tuesday, marking the first event at the hotel in almost six years since tax defaults led to its foreclosure back in 2004.

Current owner Libo Zhu bought the property in September 2009. His goal was to restore the hotel to its original splendor.

“We looked at many options, but when we saw this one we were very excited,” said Zhu, a businessman from Southern California.

The historic hotel, which is located less than a block away from the Eureka Theater in downtown, is taking reservations for the 50 rooms that are currently ready. Along with the rooms, the lobby and outdoor pool are also open for use.

Local architect John Ash, who specializes in historic building projects, is working with Zhu on the restoration process.

“This is just the beginning,” said Ash. “A lot of work has been done that you don’t see, like overhauling the boiler room in the basement and setting up wireless Internet in the lobby.”

The next step is getting the ballrooms ready so that groups such as the Rotary Club can resume their meetings at the hotel. Ash anticipates that the rooms, along with the in-house restaurant, will be finished in the coming year.

“Restoration is not something that happens overnight — it takes time,” he said. “The main thing that (Zhu) has said all along is ‘I gotta get it open.'”

What has many Eureka residents excited is the Inn’s Christmas tree, which traditionally stands at the main entrance to the lobby. While it might be more than six months away, Ash said the tree — which will be upwards of 30 feet — will be back at the Eureka Inn for Christmas 2010.

Eureka Mayor Virginia Bass also spoke at the event, and is excited for the hotel to reopen.

“I think we’ve had our hopes built up for so many years,” said Bass. “In the past, this place was the hub for events in the community.”

If you are looking to stay at the Inn, now is the time. Room rates are being discounted for the opening, and range from $64.99 to $159.99 per night.

“We bought the hotel, but the history belongs to the community,” said Zhu. “No one person can own the history of a place like this.”

05/14/2010

A new beginning for Eureka Inn

By: The Times-Standard
Posted: 05/14/10

Word spread quickly this week that the Eureka Inn — a jewel of Tudorbethan architecture — will be reopening after six years of sitting vacant.

In a time of budget cuts, layoffs, high unemployment and political polarization, the surprise announcement offers a beleaguered community a cause for celebration and a chance to reminisce about weddings, high school reunions and Christmas traditions from years gone by.

Built in 1922, the 93,000-square-foot Eureka Inn served as the premier hotel between San Francisco and Portland, Ore., for many years, and it became a staple holiday tradition for North Coast families. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1982 but has been shuttered since 2004.

Now, the new owner is taking reservations for 50 of its historic rooms. While construction continues on the inn that hosted royalty, U.S. presidents and movie stars during its heyday, it’s a start and welcome news.

The Eureka Inn has long held a special place in the hearts of local residents as the site of special celebrations and life-changing moments, but it also represents a connection to Humboldt’s storied past, when timber was king. One can only imagine the stories if those walls could talk.

To see its doors open again is a new beginning, not just for the Eureka Inn, but for the community as well.

05/11/2010

Eureka Inn ready for reservations
grand opening set for next week

By: Donna Tam/The Times-Standard
Posted: 05/11/10

With much public anticipation at its door, the Eureka Inn begins taking reservations for 50 of its historic hotel rooms today.

While only rooms on the second and third floor are available, inn owner Libo Zhu said the hotel will continue upgrading the rest of the hotel, which includes the first floor rooms, the bar, the ballroom and the cafe.

“We will keep remodeling until we are a five-star hotel,” Zhu said Monday.

After spending years on the market, news broke in September 2008 that Zhu, a Southern California businessman, had purchased the inn for $2.75 million, with plans of restoring the place to its old luster.

Zhu said his wife fell in love with the hotel when they first started looking for a hotel to purchase.

“It’s a beautiful hotel,” Zhu said. “I’ve only seen this kind of hotel in the movies.”

Built in 1922, the 93,000-square-foot Eureka Inn served as the premier hotel between San Francisco and Portland, Ore., for many years, and became a staple holiday tradition for many North Coast families. It has hosted presidents and royalty, and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1982. It has been shuttered since 2004.

News of its opening is being celebrated by many in the community, including the Humboldt County Convention and Visitors Bureau (HCCVB), the city of Eureka and the inn’s new staff.

Eureka City Manager David Tyson said the city has been trying to help Zhu with the building process and his search for investors.

“The city is excited that the inn is going to have life in it again and is going to be used by the public and Libo has a plan to get the inn back open and we applaud him for that,” he said.

Zhu said he has been working nonstop to get the rooms ready. The rooms range from $64.99 a night to $129.99.

HCCVB Executive Director Tony Smithers said visitors and travel media have been inquiring about the inn’s reopening since it closed. He said the bureau is excited to help any way it can, and has already dropped off brochures.

“The timing is pretty good, with graduation weekend coming up,” he said, adding that the competitive pricing will help, with so many hotels booked full this time of year.

Although there is ongoing construction, Smithers said he hopes people will see the sprit behind it.

“It’s a diamond in the rough, it’s a work in progress — come try the historical atmosphere of it and come back, because every time you come back, it’s going to be better and better,” he said.
To make a reservation, call 877-552-3985.

05/10/2010

Eureka Inn Opens Tomorrow

By: Hank Sims/North Coast Journal
Posted: 05/10/10, 3:19 PM

No freaking joke — the Eureka Inn is going to have a semi-stealth grand opening tomorrow. The Journal just spoke with owner Libo Zhu, who was answering phones at the desk when we called. Zhu said that the company didn’t wish to make a splash because they’re just starting with a few rooms at first. (Zhu also said that the opening is happening tomorrow, not Wednesday, as the link above would indicate.)

This is a historic goddamned day. It’s been almost six years since the grand old Inn, perhaps the second-most historically significant building in Eureka, shuttered its doors amid all kinds of weird financial scandal.

Welcome back, Eureka Inn! Congratulations, Libo Zhu!

UPDATE: On-the-scene report from Richard Stenger of the Humboldt County Convention & Visitors Bureau, who was as shocked as everyone by the news:

The Eureka Inn is going to have a modest reopening of 50 rooms while they renovate and upgrade the other 50. It will be sort of kitschy and retro, but not 100 percent luxurious yet — that is, the rooms are in clean but not luxury shape. But the price will be quite a draw: $64 and up. Priced equivalent to a mid-level hotel it will be a good value, and fun for those wanting a bit of history with their room.

UPDATE 2: The T-S is saying that the first rooms will be let next week, not today. Open for reservations as of now, though!

09/29/2009

Movement at Eureka Inn

By: Thadeus Greenson/The Times-Standard
Posted: 09/29/09, 01:30:19 AM PDT

After lying dormant for years, there are signs of life at the Eureka Inn, and a Christmas tree may not be too far off in the landmark’s future.

“(The new owner) says he’ll definitely have a Christmas tree up in 2010,” said John Ash, principal architect on the project, at a small news conference called Monday to discuss owner Lebo Zhu’s plans for re-opening the historic inn.

After spending years on the market, news broke in September 2008 that Zhu, a Southern California businessman, had purchased the inn for $2.75 million, with plans of restoring the place to its old luster. The purchase was lauded as a huge step for the city, the hope being that Zhu could transform the abandoned building into the economic driver and community hub it once was. But, for almost a year, few in Eureka heard much from Zhu.

The silence was broken at Monday’s press conference, when Zhu and Ash unveiled plans for renovating the inn’s back entrance at the corner of Eighth and G streets, which they said will be submitted to the city for design review today. Zhu and Ash didn’t offer any concrete timeline for the inn’s reopening, but indicated they intend to get to work immediately.

“The timing is to get it open as soon as possible,” Ash said. “When you own a property, letting it sit dormant is to let it disintegrate.”

Ash also said the property looks better than some might think.

“I toured it the other day, and you’d be surprised how great it looks,” he said. “It’s almost like they closed it down yesterday and it’s ready to reopen.”

When completed, Ash said the inn’s new rear entryway will feature a rose garden, valet parking and a kind of outdoor lounge entryway leading up to the inn’s back door and overlooking the inn’s swimming pool.

As to when construction will begin on the rest of the inn, Ash and Zhu said they are currently in the process of doing minor cleanup and repairs inside, and hope to formulate a plan to get some of the inn’s conference rooms and guest rooms up and running, possibly in phased construction. But, Ash said the first order of business is simply cleaning the place up.

“Until you literally clean it up, you don’t understand what needs to be repaired,” he said. “So, the first stage of any restoration is cleanup.”

Built in 1922, the 93,000-square-foot Eureka Inn served as the premier hotel between San Francisco and Portland, Ore. for many years, and became a staple in the holiday traditions of many North Coast families. It has hosted presidents and royalty, and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1982. It has been shuttered since 2004.

J Warren Hockaday, executive director of the Greater Eureka Chamber of Commerce, said Monday’s announcement comes as good news.

“I can speak for a whole lot of people out there who are just delighted to see any sign of progress,” Hockaday said, adding that the inn’s local importance can’t be overstated. “It’s really the centerpiece of the community.”

On Monday, Ash commended Zhu for “stepping to the plate” when nobody else did and for taking on “a major challenge.” But, most of all, Ash expressed excitement and nostalgia at the project sitting before him.

“It’s so exciting to walk through it,” he said. “It just brings back so many memories.”

03/02/2009

Silence at the Eureka Inn

By: Thadeus Greenson/The Times-Standard
Posted: 03/02/09, 01:31:24 AM PST

Months later, the cheers that met news of the Eureka Inn’s September sale have vanished, replaced by silence and concern.

After years on the market, news broke in September 2008 that a Southern California businessman, Lebo Zhu, had purchased the historic inn for $2.75 million, planning to restore the place to its old luster. The purchase was lauded as a huge step for the city, the hope being that Zhu could transform the abandoned building into the economic driver and community hub that it once was.

The problem is, hardly anyone seems to have heard a word from Zhu since his ambitious plans were announced. Back in September, Christopher Foster, a vice president with Funding Source LLC, a Los Angeles-based commercial financing services company that helped Zhu orchestrate the purchase, told the Times-Standard that Zhu understood the property’s importance locally and was hoping to begin restoration work around the new year.

“The guy is going to pour his heart and soul into this property,” Foster said at the time.

Eureka City Manager David Tyson said Friday that he met with Zhu some months back, but hasn’t heard any word from the man since.

“We haven’t heard anything from him for quite a while,” Tyson said, adding that Zhu does have a property manager on site who makes sure the place is secure and mows the lawns.

Messages left this week at Zhu’s Monterey Park office seeking comment for this story were not returned by deadline.

Kevin Hamblin, who directs the city’s Community Development Department, said Zhu would have to contact his office in order to get any permits to begin work on the property.

“For absolute clarity, this office — as far as permits — has heard nothing,” Hamblin said. “In fact, I haven’t even met the new owner yet.”

Similarly, Cindy Trobitz-Thomas, the city’s director of redevelopment and housing, said she hasn’t heard much from Zhu since meeting with him shortly after the sale.

“It just doesn’t feel like there’s any movement,” she said, adding that she’s sent a number of interested investors Zhu’s way. “I’m still hopeful something will happen.”

Built in 1922, the 93,000-square-foot Eureka Inn served as the premier hotel between San Francisco and Portland, Ore. for many years, and became a staple in the holiday traditions of many North Coast families. It has hosted presidents and royalty, and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1982. It has been shuttered since 2004.

J Warren Hockaday, CEO of the Greater Eureka Chamber of Commerce, said even if it re-opened tomorrow, it would take some time for the inn to become the economic force it once was. The impact of a re-opening, Hockaday said, would be incremental but could be substantial over the long run.

“We’re all eager to help this thing happen,” Hockaday said. “With that tool in the tool box, we have a broader array of things to offer people coming here … . We do have other properties that offer (an up-scale experience), but the inn was really a centerpiece.”

Tyson said he’s heard some rumors that some of Zhu’s financial partners had not come through as Zhu had hoped, but Tyson said he remains hopeful to see the inn reopened in the near future.

“It is an important icon in town and we would like to see it rehabilitated and in use,” he said. “It is a priority for the city and the City Council to see this property rehabbed and put in reuse. Our direction to staff with the council is to work with any current owner or future owner to bring forward a project.”

09/24/2008

Eureka Inn buyer reportedly wants to restore building as a historic hotel

By: Thadeus Greenson/The Times-Standard
Posted: 09/24/08, 01:18:01 AM PDT

Just days after Lebo Zhu’s approximate $2.75 million purchase of the Eureka Inn passed escrow, some locals breathed a sigh of relief to hear Zhu plans on keeping the inn pretty much just how it was.

“If that’s the case, then I think the community needs to embrace him with open arms and help out in any way people can,” Eureka City Councilwoman Polly Endert said after hearing reports that Zhu plans to restore the building and re-open it as the upscale hotel it used to be. “I think it means everything — not just for the city but for the community.”

Word spread Monday that Zhu’s deal to purchase the 86-year-old inn had gone final, but few details were available. Nonetheless, most were excited to hear the news that the inn, which has remained closed since 2004, may soon be re-opening its doors.

Built in 1922, the 93,000-square-foot Eureka Inn served as the premier hotel between San Francisco and Portland, Ore. for many years, and became a staple in the holiday traditions of many North Coast families. It has hosted presidents and royalty, and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.

Tuesday, Christopher Foster, a vice president with Funding Source LLC, a Los Angeles-based commercial financing services company that helped Zhu with the deal, offered a few details on what’s in store for the historic building.

Foster confirmed that Zhu is the buyer his company was working with when the property entered escrow in June and that Zhu plans on maintaining the inn’s integrity as a historic hotel.

“The buyer’s a very, very conscientious individual,” Foster said. “However, he is a very, very sound businessman.”

Zhu lives outside of Los Angeles, Foster said, and owns a series of restaurants and used to own a Quality Inn back some years back. He has had his eyes on the Eureka Inn for a number of years, Foster said, and jumped when the last deal to purchase the old hotel fell out of escrow in April. But, the state of the national financial market, combined with the hotel’s having sat vacant for years, posed some challenges, Foster said.

“It was hard in general to get anyone to take a real look at it for financing purposes, but Mr. Zhu just made it happen,” Foster said, adding that Zhu has ties to the local community and understands the role the Eureka Inn played in it. “The guy is going to pour his heart and soul into this property.”

Greater Eureka Chamber of Commerce Executive Director J Warren Hockaday said he recently received Zhu’s business plan for the property and it looks good.

“It’s very ambitious, but it looks like this guy is very serious,” Hockaday said. “The plan is to put it back to what it was.”

And, Hockaday said, the potential impact is huge.

“It’s an economic driver, but it’s going to take some time to re-establish it’s reputation,” Hockaday said. “It’s just huge good news.”

Endert largely agreed.

“I think its going to bring a new energy, if and when it’s opened,” Endert said. “That piece of property, in my mind, is the hub of our community. Everything happened there — it was the ‘it’ place.”