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City options .66-acre for parking deck

The Hendersonville City Council voted last week to option three parcels on South Church Street between Fifth and Fourth avenues for a parking deck. The Hendersonville City Council voted last week to option three parcels on South Church Street between Fifth and Fourth avenues for a parking deck.

The city took a first step in plans for downtown’s first parking deck, though many hurdles remain before ground would be broken.

The City Council on Thursday authorized administrators to take out options to buy three parcels on North Church Street assessed at more than $1.3 million on the tax books. The property, between the Wall Street alley and Church Street and from Fifth Avenue West to the Staton building on Fourth Avenue West, is across Church Street from the Dogwood lot hotel site where a developer would build an 88-room hotel. The city and hotel developer have not yet finalized an agreement for the partnership.
“We have to make sure we get that done because if we don’t have the hotel we don’t need the deck,” City Manager John Connet said. “Also, we have to determine what size deck we’re going to build, how much it costs and how we’re going to pay for it.”
Connet expects the council to have those answers by next June, providing the hotel agreement is consummated.
If the city pays the assessed tax value of the three lots, the parking deck cost would start at more than $1 million before the first footer. Parcels containing Packard Cabinetry and the Frank Jackson law office, both owned by Jackson, are valued at $940,900. A vacant lot owned by golf course designer Tom Fazio’s TJF Enterprises is assessed on the tax rolls at $418,200. The entire footprint, which is two-thirds of an acre, is valued at $1,358,100. The council authorized $18,000 on options to buy the land.
Connet said the city has negotiated a total price for the three parcels at around $2 million.
“A million would come from the sale of the Dogwood lot” to the hotel developer. “That money would go into the purchase.” The city is running numbers now on borrowing for the land purchase and construction and covering debt payments with parking deck fees. “The whole idea is that the parking deck would be paid through utilization of the parking deck," Connet said. "That’s the analysis we’re doing now, is looking at parking rates and how the enterprise fund would be set up.”
The city manager, council members Steve Caraker and Jeff Miller and other city officials “did a little field trip” to Greenville, South Carolina, last week and talked to a Greenville city official who had a wealth of knowledge of how parking decks work, Caraker said.
“We approved this basically as a place-holder, just to hold on to that site should things pan out,” he said.
After a request for proposals, the City Council selected Fletcher-based Blue Star Hospitality as its partner to develop a hotel on the Dogwood parking property on Fifth Avenue between Church and Washington. Blue Star proposed 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.
“The whole thing hinges on the conversation with the hotel because the hotel is going to be contracting for a certain amount of spaces month to month, then use some for events,” Caraker said.
The city does not yet know how many spaces the parking deck would be or how many floors or what it will look like. Council members have made clear that they will be sensitive to how well the hotel and parking deck blend with the historic mostly brick architecture downtown.
“Just as design of the hotel is important, we know design of the parking deck is important too,” Connet said.
In Greenville, the Hendersonville delegation saw both hotels and parking decks that blended well with that town.
“They’ve done on a larger scale what we’ve done here,” Caraker said.
If the city council’s action last week comes to fruition, the parking deck moves across Church Street from the hotel site.
“We asked (the Greenville official),
will the hotel customer walk across the street to use the garage. He said, ‘Absolutely, they do it all the time.’”
Next up, if the hotel developer’s marketing study and due diligence validates the project, is a closer look at the parking deck cost, configuration and exterior façade.
“The parking deck is going to be an expensive project but the public has been clamoring for it,” Caraker said. Depending on construction materials and architectural choices, the deck could run $15,000 to $25,000 per parking space, he said.

Hot tub mist suspected in Legionnaires’ infections

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services said early findings in its investigation into the Legionnaires’ disease outbreak at the N.C. Mountain State Fair suggested that mist from a hot tub display in the Davis Center may have caused the infection. The state Agriculture Department said it was suspending events at the Davis Center until it had completed a mitigation plan to ensure the public’s safety.
“The Davis Event Center is a large building that housed many vendor displays during the fair, including hot tubs,” HHS officials said. “People who were diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease were also much more likely to have visited during the latter half of the fair compared to people who did not get sick. These early findings are from an ongoing study comparing information gathered through surveys of people who were diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease with similar information gathered from people who attended the fair but did not get sick.”
The state public health agency shared the findings from its ongoing investigation to determine how people were exposed to Legionella bacteria at the fair, which took place Sept. 6-15 at the Western North Carolina Agricultural Center in Fletcher. As of this week, more than 130 cases of Legionnaires’ disease and Pontiac fever (a milder form of infection) had been reported in people who attended or worked at the fair.
Preliminary findings indicate that people who were diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease were much more likely to have visited the Davis Event Center while at the fair and much more likely to report having walked by the hot tub displays compared to people who did not get sick, the state HHS said. The North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services announced last week that it was halting use of the Davis Center until officials are sure it’s safe for occupancy.