In this foot-traffic friendly town, a proposed five-story, 42,228 square foot Hilton Garden Inn brings forth one major concern for elected leaders: parking.
The Board of Aldermen held a public hearing last month to consider a rezoning and Conditional Use Permit (CUP) for Main Street Partners to build a Hilton Garden Inn at 300 E. Main St. and, eventually, expand the parking deck there to provide more spaces for the hotel and the town.
The parking deck that was built as part of developing the Hampton Inn has 504 spaces. Even at peak periods, the hotel needsless than half of that. This allowed Main Street Partners to lease the lot to the town of Carrboro for five years, providing available free parking to those visiting or working in the downtown area.
Expanding the deck would be expected to add more than 200 new spaces overall. If the hotel it built, its construction is expected to include 39 underground spaces.
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Laura Van Sant addressed the board on behalf of Main Street Partners. She asked the board to separate the issues of approving the hotel and expanding the parking garage. The hotel’s parking needs will be satisfied with the existing deck, Van Sant told the board, so banks will refuse to finance the expansion of the deck as part of the financing for the hotel construction.
“The problem is, it could kill the deal,” Van Sant said. “We can’t finance the deck.” She said she is willing to work with the town to find a way to pay for the deck after the hotel is built, but that the construction of that project should not be delayed.
Businesses in the surrounding area lined up to speak to the board, supporting the new hotel and explaining the pros and cons on the parking question. Jeff Phillips, CEO of Fleet Feet, said that he welcomes the additional hotel bedrooms for visiting staff members but also looks forward to holding team meetings and training in the Hilton Garden Inn’s new meeting spaces (rooms holding up to 200 people).
Phillips said he discourages visitors from renting cars during their stay because once they arrive at the Hampton Inn, they seldom leave Carrboro. Fleet Feet’s national headquarters is across the parking lot and there are dozens of restaurants within a five-minute walk, he said. “But sometimes we have to go out of town for larger meetings for the lack of space,” he said.
Bridget Pemberton-Smith, co-owner of Cameron’s, said out-of-town visitors often come into her shop and return after dinner and drinks, bringing friends. “We’d love to say that we can sustain our business with just local customers, and it really does help for people to ‘shop Orange first’ but we need visitors’ business,” she said.
As a handful of additional business owners stepped up in similar support of the project, Alderwoman Jacquie Gist quipped “Is there anyone left at 300 Main tonight?”
“My concern,” Gist said, “is parking.”
She said she will reserve most of her comments and discussion for the Tuesday, March 8, meeting of the board where it is expected a decision will be made about the project.
You could not have built the Hampton Inn or Fleet Feet without the town helping. I hope you remember that.
Alderwoman Jacquie Gist
Regarding financing an expansion of the parking deck and its additional spaces, Gist said that some perspective on give and take was needed. “You could not have built the Hampton Inn or Fleet Feet without the town helping. I hope you remember that. If it wasn’t for these other business and the taxes they pay, you couldn’t have built 300 E. Main. We helped you. It’s a two-way street.”
Sheryl Forbis spoke to the board about the design of the hotel itself. The appearance commission has had difficulty expressing its concern of the look of the building, which would be the largest in the downtown area, she said.
“The building is very large. It should be visionary, but it looks like it could fit just off any interstate highway,” she said. “We also think it should be LEED certified (for energy efficiency).”
Gist added that one of her concerns on the building’s appearance related to signage.
At five stories, Gist said, “A sign near the top of the building would be visible from all over the place and we don’t want that. We live in Carrboro, not the Hampton Inn.”