The city council voted unanimously Tuesday night to lift part of the Prince Hall Historic District designation to allow for a new hotel, a move that could open the door to more development in a neighborhood that has been declining for years.
Narsi Properties plans to build a 12-story hotel at the corner of South Wilmington and East Lenoir streets. The company wants to demolish the General Baptist State Convention building that sits on the site and build a new, modern building as part of the hotel project.
The plans also call for the relocation of two historic homes. Specific sites for the relocation haven’t been identified.
“I am glad to see the strong support from the community and council,” Deven Patel, the owner of Narsi Properties, said in statement.
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Lifting the historic district designation on the piece of land wasn’t favored by the Raleigh Historic Development Commission or the State Historic Preservation Office, according to letters filed with the rezoning.
The properties mark the edge of the four-block Prince Hall Historic District. The Raleigh Historic Development Commission said Prince Hall is the only historic overlay district in the city that specifically represents Raleigh’s African-American heritage. The district also has been identified as one of the first mixed-use districts in Raleigh.
The city council approved the creation of the district in 2012.
“We support development ... but there’s many other properties the hotel could be,” said Don Davis, a member of the Raleigh Historic Development Commission.
The Central Citizen’s Advisory Council voted to approve the project 30 to 0 in March. The planning commission also approved the rezoning, saying it would benefit Shaw University, help downtown’s growth and preserve the two historic homes by moving them away from a commercial area.
Despite the approvals, city staff found the plan to be inconsistent with policies meant to protect historic districts and transitional areas, city planner Bynum Walter told council members before the public hearing. The council approved the rezoning anyway, because it didn’t violate the Unified Development Ordinance.
Lonette Williams, the chair of the Central CAC, told council members the hotel was the beginning of important economic development for Southeast Raleigh and should be supported.
Members of the General Baptist State Convention said the plan gives the organization an opportunity to grow.
“We’ve been waiting a long time for a headquarters we can be proud of,” said William Newkirk, pastor at Oak City Baptist Church in Raleigh.
Haywood Gray, the executive secretary of the General Baptist State Convention, said the building, which was built in the 1950s, hasn’t changed much.
Shaw University, located across the street from the site, also will benefit, university president Tashni Dubroy said.
“Shaw University’s success is intimately tied to the General Baptist State Convention,” Dubroy told council members during the public hearing. “We’re fully behind this project.”