Parts of an historic seaside listed building are at risk of collapse after decades of under-investment, its new owners have warned.
Residents of The Grand in Folkestone last year purchased the imposing Edwardian former hotel at auction for just £448,000 - but now their company faces a "worst case scenario" repair bill of up to £4 million.
Speaking publicly for the first time since the purchase, company director Peter Cobrin has set out its vision for the future of the much-loved building, which overlooks the English Channel from The Leas and has historic links to royalty.
"The target is to get the Palm Court watertight and back into use at the earliest possible opportunity," he said.
"That's the absolute priority, otherwise it'll fall down. The condition that it's in, it's stable, but if we had a bad winter or a heavy fall of snow.
"So the priority is to get the Palm Court, the Tudor Room and the Drawing Room and offer them back to the community to start making use of it."
The glass-fronted Palm Court was once the haunt of royalty, with Edward VII and his mistress Alice Keppel known to grace the 'monkey house' - so-called because the locals used to like peering in to see the King and his courtiers, who were heavily bearded.
Generations of locals and visitors alike will have known the Palm Court as a destination for cream teas, enjoyed with stunning sea views, but the calm of the refined surroundings belied the often chaotic goings-on behind the scenes.
The residents were able to secure the freehold of The Grand at auction after its previous owner, Hallam Estates, was put into administration.
Now, with Covid having delivered a significant blow to the wider hospitality industry, the new owners face a significant challenge to once again open the communal areas of the building - which is essentially made up of private homes - back into use for the paying public.
"We love the building because it's our home," Mr Cobrin said.
"We also recognise that the community loves this building because it's part of the history of the of the town. The Grand has been a feature here since before the First World War, and during the war people met their loved ones who came back from the front, good willing, and they had teas here.
"So this is part of the fabric of the town, more so than many buildings in many other towns. So we are absolutely totally committed to that.
"We want to see the Palm Court in particular, and the Tudor Room and the Drawing Room, which are the most congenial areas, brought back into community use.
"That's our real goal. But at the same time we also have to make sure that we can actually preserve the fabric of the rest of the building or it will fall down."
When the building was put up for auction there was interest from a number of property developers, even though the sale details made it clear "there are proposed works of repair and maintenance to the fabric of the building towards which the freeholder/commercial owner must make a contribution".
Despite the significant repair costs that would need to be taken on, leaseholders living in the apartments legally had the right to match any successful bid - and they did this so as to take the fate of their home into their own hands.
The scale of the task facing them has emerged over the months since the sale was completed, with various assessments revealing the cost of the work which needs to be carried out to secure the future of the building.
"I think £4 million is a worst case scenario," Mr Cobrin said. "It could be done for £2.5 to £3 million."
The focus for now is on the Palm Court, Tudor Room and Drawing Room to the front of the building, which the company believes could most easily be returned to public use.
One possibility is the formation of a charity to promote the venue as a hub for the arts and other cultural activities.
However, larger spaces such as the ballroom and dining rooms appear less economically viable, and could be earmarked for change of use to residential. By developing and selling portions of the building as homes, the new company hopes to raise funds to help cover the costs of repair to the wider structure.
The fire sale of assets following the placing of Hallam Estates into administration meant much of the equipment needed to run the commercial elements of the building - right down to the kitchen sink - were sold off to repay creditors.
Mr Cobrin says the main focus now is to repair the Palm Court and ensure that it can be reopened to the public this year.