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By Connie Leinbach
With the Ocracoke Preservation Society purchase of Island Inn property on May 7, passersby should begin to see some changes happening at the historic site.
But not real fast, OPS President Ken DeBarth said on Tuesday.
The successful transfer of the iconic property went off without a hitch, and the deed is in OPS hands, DeBarth said.
For now, the most visible change is the removal today of the huge ice machine on the corner of the property at Irvin Garrish Highway and Lighthouse Road, DeBarth said.
Financing of the $790,000 purchase agreement comes from a variety of sources.
The down payment for the purchase was funded by the sale of two parcels across the street—the condo parking area and pool to the condo association and an empty lot to Hyde County on which it will construct a new EMS building
The rest is owner financed by the seller, Lighthouse Road Investors Group, LLC, with a balloon payment in five years.
Half of the monthly mortgage payments will be covered by a grant from the Occupancy Tax Board and half from the Tourism Development Authority tax board, DeBarth said.
Hyde County will soon begin its project, but demolition of the add-on wings to the center section will take more time.
“We don’t have any money,” DeBarth said. “We got it off the market, but now we have to generate income.”
According to the deal, Hyde County agreed to pay up to $150,000 for the lot, and they put $100,000 at closing May 7, he said.
But the county is still awaiting an appraisal of the lot. If that comes in over $100,000, Hyde will pay the difference, which will be added to the demolition/renovation fund.
DeBarth said renovation of the historic center section of the building–the old Odd Fellows Lodge, originally built in 1901– to its historic condition and as a visitors’ center and upstairs office space is a five-to-seven-year project.
“Much of the old hotel and restaurant areas of the Island Inn have fallen into disrepair and are beyond saving,” he said. “These sections will be demolished.”
Eventually, the vision for the grounds around the restored lodge will be green space with some off-road parking along Odd Fellow’s Lane.
Financing for all of this will involve various fundraisers and grant seeking.
But at the outset, plans include the addition of public restrooms. Depending on a number of things, this aspect of the project may occur sooner rather than later, he said.
More than a year ago, local businessman John Giagu conceived of the idea for a community entity to purchase the property.
He consulted with local realtors and recruited Hyde County Commissioner Tom Pahl, Hyde County Manager Bill Rich, and part-time resident Ed Norvell (a Salisbury attorney specializing in non-profit arts and preservation) to develop a workable plan to save the property from commercial development.
These men formed the “Island Inn Preservation Committee” and last year presented their plan to the OPS executive committee, who ultimately approved the plan in March.
“We are glad to become stewards of this historic property,” DeBarth said. “We have a lot of work to do. We need to find funds to do all the things we plan.”
Anyone interested in donating to this project may send checks to the OPS, P.O. Box 1240, Ocracoke, NC 27960, with “Island Inn” in the memo line.