Chapel Hill News

Carrboro OKs 2nd hotel for 300 East Main development

The Board of Aldermen gave the green light to a five-story Hilton Garden Inn Tuesday night, clearing the way for Main Street Partners to continue its transformation of 300 East Main Street.

The project was backed by local business owners at last month’s public hearing, including several that will be close neighbors. They cited their increased business from Hampton Inn customers and a good working relationship with hotel management to promote local shops and restaurants.

The vote approving the 42,228 square foot hotel was unanimous.

Carrboro currently leases part of the Hampton Inn parking deck at 300 East Main, providing free public parking. That arrangement will continue until the lease expires in 2018. At that time, the town will have an option to extend the arrangement with the Hampton Inn for an additional three years.

The 504-space parking deck was built as part of developing the Hampton Inn. The town leases 150 daytime spaces and 250 nighttime spaces for people to use up for up to three hours at a time. The lease is tied to the hotel’s occupancy tax revenue and cannot exceed $90,000 per month.

If it is renewed, that cap would rise to $120,000 per month, based on the expected increase in occupancy tax generated by the new hotel. The project overall expects to boost the town’s annual revenue by $250,000 per year.

2nd deck possible

Main Street Partners’ Laura Van Sant and town staff acknowledged that the new hotel’s parking demand along with other downtown activities may require building another parking garage.

This is one of the unknowns in the proposal, said Annette Stone, director of economic and community development. By the time the current lease expires in August 2018, the town will have completed its parking study and can plan accordingly, she said.

Just as highways aren’t designed to handle peak holiday traffic without delays, planners like to see parking garages that are about three-quarters full most of the time. There’s space available, even if drivers have to search a little while to find it. During Carrboro’s recent “Shimmer” festival on a chilly February Friday, the Hampton Inn garage was filled, with a few drivers looking elsewhere for a spot to park.

“Good work on both sides,” Alderwoman Jacquie Gist said, commending the town and the developer for finding a flexible parking solution if needed when the project is completed.

Town’s tallest

While the aldermen had a checklist of details to review in the application, they were broadly supportive. Mayor Lydia Lavelle said the design changes that have been made as a response to the town’s advisory boards’ input have improved the appearance of the building, set to be the tallest in downtown.

“The newer designs are more appealing from the bike path side,” she said. “There might be an opportunity for some art there. That would be great.”

The Conditional Use Permit approved Tuesday night includes a requirement that there be a ramp from the Libba Cotten Bikeway up to the back entrance of the hotel, which is designed to look much like a front entrance, anticipating that the bikeway will be considered a “main entrance” into Carrboro.

Signage for the building will be at street level, satisfying a concern cited by Gist that a corporate hotel sign not be a signature image viewable from all of downtown.

Gist and her colleagues all expressed their appreciation for the project’s prospects for bringing jobs, foot traffic and business development into downtown Carrboro, taking some pressure off of residential real estate as the main source of the town’s revenue stream.

The board will receive updates as the project moves forward. Although Van Sant will not be requesting that the project be LEED certified, she said that the construction plans will largely comply with the energy efficient and sustainability standards associated with the LEED program.

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is a rating system that measures the design, construction and operation of high performance green buildings, homes and neighborhoods. LEED was developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) to guide the building industry and provide standards for sustainability for a variety of building projects.