Construction crews up against time, and fish, to build Boone hotel

BOONE, NC (WBTV) – A historical landmark in the heart of Boone is about to get a major makeover.

The now-abandoned Portofino’s restaurant has been empty for months, and now the owners have plans to build a boutique-style hotel in its place. But a lot of hurdles had to be cleared before the okay was given.

Because the building is a historic landmark, they had to get the okay from the town. But the biggest restraint comes from the residents who are still using this building. The builder only has a few months to get the job done before they come back.

“This place looks like a dump,” one resident said.

It’s true the old Portofino’s Restaurant has seen better days. From the bordered-up windows to the bowed decking, to the weeds growing as high as Christmas trees. This historic site has been here since the twenties, being everything from a tobacco barn to a dive bar and eventually a restaurant.

However, plans are in the works to raise the old building and give the property a new look.

“We came up with this new plan and it’s turned out to be a blessing in disguise,” a local resident said.

John Winkler is a partial owner and developer of the building.

“It’s just uninhabitable right now,” Winkler said.

His idea is to build a new 20-room hotel near the heart of the Appalachian State campus, but without sacrificing the old-school charm of Boone.

“Make Boone what people love about Boone. We want to keep that,” Winkler said. “We don’t want to make big, tall buildings, just keep it quaint.”

With the blessing of the historical society, the project is moving full ahead. Some people love the idea of ​​a new look.

“It would be nice to tear it down, put some parking underneath it. And a nice place on top of it,” One resident said.

Others would rather see it reopen like it did back in its heyday.

“I live right next to this place, it would be fun if it were a bar again,” Michael Novachek said.

One factor that could impact the timing of the project is that the developer has to deal with the existing residents who are already on the property.

Another thing to take into consideration is that the building actually hangs over a creek used by trout to swim upstream, and they can’t be disturbed while they’re there.

So, the idea is to move the new building off the creek giving the trout better access to where they need to go.

“There’s six months there that we’ll have to shutdown,” Winkler said. “Fifty percent of the building lays in the trout buffer. About eighty percent lays in the floodway.”

Work crews will only have between October and April to demolish the building and get the new one up before the fish return.

Related: Popular Plaza Midtown restaurant Soul Gastrolounge closing in August

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