The Blanche Group Bailout
Who are they? Where are they?
Columbia County, FL (Posted
2010 • at 09:30 am)
Tonight, March 1, 2010, at City Hall, the saga of the
Blanche Hotel continues with the City Council scheduled
to vote on whether or not to approve a structural
engineering study of the Blanche Hotel.
An investor interview
about the Blanche can be found •
In October of 2009, the Blanche surfaced when Stephen
Smith of the Blanche Group offered to sell the Blanche
for a million and a half dollars to the city or the
county or anyone who would buy it.
Numerous times Mr. Smith said the building, except
for the carpet and some paint, was in move in condition.
That was not true.
Mr. Smith didn't say that the Blanche was in a
About 150 fire, safety and healthy violations were
found in the Blanche Hotel
The building ultimately had approximately 150 health,
safety and fire violations, which only came to light
after the Observer explained to the Lake City Fire Chief
that he had photos of the inside of the building and it
These were not just minor violations. The walls of
the Blanche were filled with rodent feces; the fire
escape was visibly falling off the building; fire exit
doors were wired and screwed shut for years; and the
sprinkler system was out of code compliance. There was
black mold on some of the walls.
No one from the city has explained how these
violations were allowed to accumulate for years, putting
the health and safety of the occupants of the building
and the public at risk.
Ever since the conversation began about the Blanche,
the Investor Group, through its spokesman, has claimed
that that they never bought the Blanche to make a
profit, but to help the downtown of Lake City. They have
also claimed that all the money that was taken in, after
expenses, was reinvested back into the Blanche.
The facts do not to support the Blanche Group's
It appears from the public record that the Blanche
was purchased in 1988 for $268,500. The prime investors
at the time appear to be Richard Cole and Daniel Crapps.
Today, the investment group owes about a million
dollars, can only afford to pay the interest on their
note and is looking for a public bailout, after
deceiving both the city and the county about the
condition of the building.
In November of 2009, the Observer spoke with one of
the original investors in the Blanche Trust under the
condition of anonymity.
Read the complete interview •
This investor explained how they could not get the
facts, were constantly asked for money and were sold a
bill of goods.
It is unknown if anyone from the Blanche Investment
Trust is going to show their face in City Hall this
evening, as the City Council decides whether or not to
commit to investing $19,500 to look into the mess the
Blanche Group has made.
It is surely time the Group members came clean and
the public finds out who they are and for whom they are
being asked to invest from the public treasury.
That is the least that is owed to the anonymous
investor who told the Observer when asked, "After all
you've been through and all the money you've lost, do
you think the City should get involved with this thing?"
The answer, "I'm all for it. If they can salvage it,
they should do it. But they [the City] should know what
they are getting into. Especially if that's TIF money
and we only have so much TIF money to spend on other
projects downtown. I think they just need to be smart
about it. It would be terrible for a whole city block to
Lake City's community roots run deep and as the
Blanche Group stands in front of the City Council with
their hands out it would be nice to see the Blanche
Group say they were sorry for the mess they have caused.