|By Amanda Lehmert, News and Record,
Greensboro, N.C.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Dec. 22, 2009--GREENSBORO -- A proposed downtown luxury hotel has cleared the first hurdle with the city.
The Greensboro Redevelopment Commission agreed to sell 2.8 acres of South Elm Street redevelopment land to the Ole Asheboro Association, a nonprofit that hopes to turn the site into a 200-room hotel with the help of a developer. The sale price would be $1.1 million. The City Council will be asked to approve the sale Jan. 5.
The project is contingent on the council approving a complicated $47 million financing deal. Most of that sum would come from low-interest bonds made available to the city and county through the federal economic stimulus effort. The council is scheduled to consider the financing Jan. 5, as well.
The five member redevelopment commission was split on the project. "They are not asking for us today to do this, but to give them a chance to put this thing together," said commission member Nettie Coad, a resident of Ole Asheboro and chairwoman of the commission.
"I think it deserves the chance. We won't lose anything if we vote for it and it doesn't work. Southeast Greensboro needs to stop being the dumping ground for everybody."
The 10 acre site at the south of Lee Street along South Elm Street is a "brownfield" site where the city planned to build a mixture of housing, retail and office space.
Instead, members of the Ole Asheboro neighborhood and the developer asked the commission to sell a piece of the land for a seven-story hotel. The neighborhood association would have a 15 percent share in the hotel and get a portion of the profits.
Proponents, including state Rep. Alma Adams and school board member Deena Hayes, asked the commission to approve the sale.
"I think this is going to be a wonderful opportunity not only for jobs, but to improve the economic development," Adams said. "Here's an opportunity that I think we ought to seize."
A majority of commission members thought so too, although two members were concerned that giving the prime land to the hotel would weaken the overall redevelopment project.
"It's meant to be a development in total and not in pieces," said commission member Jerry Leimenstoll.
The approval from the commission is the first step toward the hotel development. But the city staff raised questions about the project's viability that will have to be answered before the proposal becomes reality. A city-commissioned marketing study found that the proposed $200-per-room rate -- and upward of 70 percent room occupancy expected by the developer -- was not feasible.
Bridge Chisholm, partner in Urban Hotel Group, disagreed with the findings. If the sale moves forward, the city would enter into an agreement that would require the developer to provide conceptual plans for the hotel, financial commitment and proof of a commitment from a hotel franchise.
Contact Amanda Lehmert at 373-7075 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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