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Plan for five-story hotel clears first hurdle

Architect’s rendering shows the proposed Court House Inn looking south from North Church Street. The hotel lobby entrance would face Second Avenue West. [ODA Architecture for Catellus Group] Architect’s rendering shows the proposed Court House Inn looking south from North Church Street. The hotel lobby entrance would face Second Avenue West. [ODA Architecture for Catellus Group]

A hotel that could reshape the scale and look of Church Street could be under construction by next year if the Hendersonville City Council OKs a rezoning request in the coming weeks.

 

Five stories high with 59 rooms, the tentatively named Court House Inn would have dining, a modest amount of meeting space and a lobby bar on the ground floor, a two stories of garage parking and a top floor terrace looking north from Second Avenue West.
The Hendersonville Planning Board voted 4-1 on Monday to recommend that the City Council rezone the property to allow Charlotte-based Catellus to build the 55,000-square-foot hotel on a three-quarter acre parcel of vacant land on North Church between First and Second avenues.
“I think you’ll find we put a lot of energy in this,” developer Stephen Barker said. He described the style and pricing of the facility as mid- to upper level, with a variety of room and suite styles, a space for smaller weddings, business meetings and other gatherings and a terrace bar.
At 63 feet, 10 inches tall, the hotel would stay under the maximum height allowed by city code downtown by two inches. But Planning Board members and a civil engineer for the developer said that because of the elevation drop from Main to Church streets, the roofline would be below the courthouse dome.
A covered drop-off for check-in would face Second Avenue West, with access to basement parking on First Avenue and access to street-level parking on Second Avenue. Drawings submitted by the developer show 11 guest rooms and three corner suites on the top floor, which would also have a smaller bar off the terrace.
Walter Fields, another representative for Catellus, told the Planning Board that the hotel would be compatible with the city’s comprehensive plan goals to encourage shops, restaurants and entertainment downtown.
“Those are all features that draw people in and yet the element that was missing on that list was a place to say when you come to town,” he said. The developers reduced the number of rooms from 73 to 59, eliminating three on the top floor to create the gathering space for 30-40 people and the bar off the terrace.
Of the three downtown hotel projects announced this year, the Court House Inn is the first to reach the Planning Board. In April the Shipman family announced plans for the Cedars Lodge & Spa, which would be built around the historic 1914 hotel and result in the removal of the Chariot event space. The 200,000-square-foot development would include hotel rooms and condos, a spa, fitness center, sports bar and conference space for 300 people. The Cedars would be renovated as the dining room for the guests, residents and the public.
The city, meanwhile, has negotiated an agreement to develop a hotel on the Dogwood parking lot property on Church Street between Fourth and Fifth avenues. That project has been “paused” until the spring, Lew Holloway, the city’s director of community development, told the Planning Board.
“Whether the project moves forward at this point is in the developer’s hands,” he said. “The council has voted previously to sell the property for the development of the Dogwood hotel.” The developer could withdraw, he added. “That’s not happened to date but it could.”
The Shipman family and architect Tamara Peacock, who is guiding the Cedars project, are moving ahead with a required traffic impact study, Holloway said.
At a neighborhood compatibility meeting in July, the owners of The Henderson on Church Street and the Waverly Inn and Charleston Inn, side-by-side B&Bs on North Main Street, said they doubted that downtown could accommodate three new hotels, given the conventional projection of 70 percent occupancy to make a profit. Catellus’s Barker said then and again on Monday that the Court House Inn would add a style that B&Bs and chain hotels don’t provide.
During a public hearing on Monday, Ken Fitch, a regular commenter on city development, said the scale was too large for the neighborhood.
Planning Board Chair Steve Orr said the city should be happy to attract an investment that would turn the old car dealership land into an asset. Oil from cars contaminated the soil, creating a challenge for the builder.
“We have a developer who’s willing to basically take a brownfield and create an opportunity that quite frankly is a great improvement of what we could have with a retail location architecturally,” he said.
The hotel project also has to win the blessing of the Historic Preservation Commission and would ultimately be approved or rejected by the City Council.