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City to pitch Dogwood lot as hotel, parking deck

If the City Council approves, the city will pitch the Dogwood lot for development as a hotel and parking deck. If the City Council approves, the city will pitch the Dogwood lot for development as a hotel and parking deck.

Lew Holloway has become a collector of facts about on old hotels.

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Hendersonville had the Wheeler, the St. John’s, the Majestic, Skyland, the Hodgewell and others.
“We had downtown hotels,” he said. “We feel like anecdotally that there’s a move back towards that.”
The city of Hendersonville plans to put anecdote to the test with a $52,000 marketing study that will examine the need for a hotel and parking deck on the city owned Dogwood parking lot on Church Street between Fourth and Fifth avenues. The study, by a consulting group affiliated with the UNC School of Government, would be funded by the city and the Henderson County Tourism Development Authority. The TDA on Tuesday authorized $25,000 for the study.
City Manager John Connet noted that a 2009 study commissioned by the city and a more recent report for the TDA agreed on the next major tool to boost tourism.
“One of the things that keeps coming up from that study and others is the need for a downtown hotel,” Connet said. “At this point, there have been some folks looking around for a downtown site. … They want us to give them land or sell it cheap or give them a lot of incentives.”
Connet, who said he has talked with all five council members about the marketing study, said the consultants would look at the demand for a hotel and parking deck and recommend a financing structure.
The study will show “how it could be laid out if we put a hotel that would be accompanied by a parking deck,” he said. “The private sector would own the hotel. The public sector would either own or be involved in the parking deck. We would engage the community to gain support for the hotel and parking deck on this site and we would go out and market this site to a developer.”
Even though he’s only been here for two years, Connet knows that a proposed high-rise condominium project downtown is seared in the city’s collective memory.
“We want to avoid any repeat of the Sunflower,” he said, referring to the 2006 proposal that resulted in a citywide referendum that capped building heights downtown at 64 feet.

The consultant would gather public input on the front end about esthetics and the community’s views on a design that fits downtown.
Connet said a hotel needs to have a minimum of 100 rooms and be able to accommodate a conference of 200 to 300 people. City officials are eschewing comparison to a proposal to build a convention center on the Grey Hosiery Mill property. That project was too big in scale, they say, and involved an unknown financial contribution from the city.
The Dogwood lot, Holloway reminded the TDA during its meeting on Tuesday, would be going back to an old use.
“It is a parking lot because a hotel was torn down,” he said of the property, which last operated as the Bowen Hotel.
The TDA’s interest, Holloway said in an interview on Monday, arises from its own consultant’s report that showed how much downtown Hendersonville drives tourism.
“Everything showed how important downtown is to the industry as a whole,” he said. The TDA’s Product Development Committee recommended the $25,000 expenditure and the full board approved the request on Tuesday.
“We do feel like this is a product we’re seeing an interest in from the private sector,” said Holloway, who also serves on the TDA.
The Development Finance Initiative at the UNC School of Government helps local government analyze projects, drafts financing plans and helps connect towns with developers. In a proposed agreement, the DFI says it will examine current conditions, identify development opportunities on the Dogwood site, analyze the city’s role, including financing, public-partnership and grants; and identify potential development partners and help the city negotiate with them.
“At the end of the day the result is the city will have a guided strategy for developing the lot,” Holloway said.
Aside from parking and a hotel, the city envisions developing the ground floor, probably facing Church Street, for retail use, too.