|By Matt Garfield, The News &
Observer, Raleigh, N.C.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
April 18, 2012--RALEIGH -- The City Council on Tuesday selected a Raleigh development firm to bring an extended-stay hotel to vacant land near the convention center.
Summit Hospitality Group plans a Residence Inn by Marriott, an addition that supporters say will add much-needed hotel rooms to the city's revitalized downtown..
Summit envisions an 11-story hotel with 140 to 154 rooms, restaurant and retail space on the first floor, a rooftop terrace and parking in a nearby city deck, according to documents submitted to the city.
The company has secured tentative financing, said Doyle Parrish, whose firm builds and operates hotels across the southeast, including nearly a dozen in the Triangle. Summit was chosen over two other development groups.
"They understand the market here," said City Manager Russell Allen. "We feel like they can get the financing to pull it together."
The Residence Inn is the second hotel planned for the city-owned site at the corner of Lenoir and Salisbury streets.
Before the economic downturn, Raleigh-based Empire Properties reached a deal to turn the property into The Lafayette, a mix of offices, condominiums and hotel rooms.
But that plan was scrapped after efforts to obtain financing collided with development deadlines imposed by the city.
Since then, downtown advocates have preached the need for more hotel rooms to make the city's convention center more conducive to hosting large conferences and events.
The city should take steps early in the planning stages to ensure Summit's hotel has a high-quality look, said Councilman Thomas Crowder, an architect known for his emphasis on design.
With a prominent place in the downtown skyline, Crowder said the hotel "needs to be an iconic structure in this city."
Too much meddling by the city could kill the deal, countered Councilman John Odom.
"I don't want this to be another Mint where we drive them to do something that doesn't work," said Odom, referring to the recently closed restaurant that leased space from the city on Fayetteville Street.
Allen will ask the city's appearance commission for ideas and guidance on designing the hotel. Formed in the 1970s, the 15-member citizens group includes architects, planners and landscaping specialists.
Downtown currently has about 1,000 hotel rooms, but convention center boosters say an additional 500 to 700 rooms are needed.
Several hotel projects proposed in downtown were delayed or canceled because of a lack of financing amid the sluggish economy. But the local hotel industry has been showing signs of rebounding.
In Glenwood South, a 126-room Hampton Inn & Suites is under construction and is expected to open by the end of the year. It will be the first new hotel in the downtown area since the Marriott opened along Fayetteville Street in July 2008.
N.C. State University officials have also selected a group of Raleigh developers and a Washington real estate firm to build a 125-room hotel on Hillsborough Street across from the school's Bell Tower. The project will replace Sadlack's Heroes and a retail center that is home to Schoolkids Records.
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