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Developers propose multi-story hotel on Dogwood lot downtown

The Catalyst Group proposes a 120-room five-story hotel with a 247-space parking garage and meeting space for 150 people. The Catalyst Group proposes a 120-room five-story hotel with a 247-space parking garage and meeting space for 150 people.

Developers responding to an invitation from the city of Hendersonville proposed multi-story hotels on the city-owned Dogwood parking lot at the corner of South Church Street and Fourth Avenue West.

A Fletcher-based hotel management company and a Charlotte developer of hotels responded last week to a request for proposals the city released last month.
The Charlotte-based Catellus proposed a 120-room five-story hotel with a 247-space parking garage, a 4,500-square-foot conference space and a first-floor lounge and restaurant.
Blue Star Hospitality of Fletcher pitched an 88-room, six-floor structure with double the conference space — 9,000 square feet — plus 9,000 square feet of ground-floor retail space and a parking garage with 244 spaces.
Both plans would preserve the existing buildings on Church Street and Washington Street.
City Manager John Connet said he was pleased with the responses and the quality and experience of the developers.
“Both are doing their due diligence,” he said. “They have been spending some time here looking for hotel sites. We are pleased with the two proposals that we have. There’s a lot of negotiations ahead to try to come up with a workable proposal. ... Our plan is at this point staff will continue to negotiate, sit down and interview both development groups and ultimately select the group we feel like has the best plan going forward.”
The city released the RFP on Oct. 11 seeking a developer to build a hotel of 80 to 120 rooms with meeting space for 150 to 300 people. Blue Star’s conference space would accommodate 200 people and Catellus’ proposal would seat 150, said Assistant City Manager Brian Pahle.
The city has offered to sell the property to the developer and invest the proceeds in a parking deck to replace the Dogwood lot’s 157 spaces. Both hotel proposals more than make up for the loss. The city-owned Dogwood lot has a tax value of $764,600 and market value of $1,098,000.
“The council made it very clear that at the very least we would have to
replace the parking,” Connet said. A hotel’s mostly nighttime demand for parking “is going to be different than the peak usage of the deck” for downtown diners and shoppers.
A building of five or six stories would be the largest proposed development downtown since the failed Sunflower (later Carolina Grand), a nine-story condo a developer wanted to build in the mid-2000s. That proposal so infuriated city residents that they pushed for and got a referendum to overrule the council’s approval of the project. More than two-thirds of residents who turned out for the referendum in 2006 voted to impose a 64-foot building height cap.
“That’s a question we have to ask,” Connet said when asked whether the proposed hotels exceed the 64-foot limit. “They don’t give a height,” he said. He didn’t think the five-story Catalyst proposal would exceed the limit. “The six-story is going to be close,” he said.

Council members open to plans

Councilman Jeff Miller said he had not seen the RFP responses yet but was open to the concept of a hotel.
“My beef back then when it was inside the King Street-Church Street corridor was that I really feel the people needed to decide if they wanted taller buildings to go in there or not and at the time they didn’t, especially when it was kind of force-fed on us,” he said. “If you look at a six-story building on Church it’s probably not going to be as high as the Methodist Church sitting on a hill. But it’s still something I have to look at it.”
The city may not be able to insist that the project get a lot smaller, he said.
“If they’re going to build something, they’re going to have to build it big enough so the occupancy rates are going to make money for them,” he said.
Preserving or even adding to the total number of parking spaces is imperative, he added.
“Hopefully if we do accept the hotel being built there, then folks like the Baptist Church could use (the parking garage) so we’ll just have to see. There’s a lot of moving parts to this one. I’ve been a little skeptical of giving up that lot but I’m open to the discussion.”
Both proposals show the hotels facing Fourth Avenue West with a lobby entrance at the southeast
corner of Fourth and Church Street and the parking deck in the rear accessible from Fifth Avenue West.

Blue Star’s rendering, by Mussman Architects, of Greenville, S.C., shows a rooftop bar and a second floor
meeting room. Catalyst’s shows a ground-floor meeting room and a restaurant.
Mayor pro tem Ron Stephens also said he had not seen details of the proposals but liked what he had heard from Connet.
“As long as they meet our regulations that doesn’t bother me,” he said of the multi-story plans. “I don’t think they’re any taller than the old Skyland hotel. They’re going to present those to us and we’ll then vote to go ahead.” Since the city asked for proposals, it’s obligated to continue the project, he said.
“We told them that we would entertain selling the property and would work with them,” he said. “Obviously, part of the parking would be ours. We don’t want to lose any parking spaces and I don’t think we’d have to. I’m told that one of them has the space to accommodate 200 people (for meetings). We can use the hotel and we can certainly use the meeting space, which would be an important addition to downtown. I hope it goes forward. This looks very encouraging.”