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Rendering shows proposed parking deck looking southwest. Rendering shows proposed parking deck looking southwest.

The Hendersonville City Council voted on Thursday to move forward with an agreement for a downtown hotel and plans to build a parking deck, pushing the city ahead on two major projects that have been talked about for years.

Emerging from a lengthy closed session around 9:45 p.m., the council voted 3-2 to move ahead with the hotel agreement for a Springhill Suites by Marriott, then voted 5-0 to buy land for the new city parking deck on Fifth Avenue West at Church Street. Council members Jerry Smith and Lyndsey Simpson voted no on the hotel motion.

The city has agreed to sell the Dogwood lot to Fletcher hotel developer Satis Patel for $1,098,000. In a second vote, the council authorized the purchase for $1.95 million of three parcels covering two-thirds of an acre for the parking deck.

The council and city administrators have been in discussions for more than a year on the hotel project and have pursued a companion project to build downtown's first parking deck. The parking garage, likely to be four or five stories, would provide around 30 parking spaces for the hotel and up to 325 spaces overall. The council has yet to decide details of the parking garage, including the number of stories, with four or five floors possible.

Despite a long discussion behind closed doors, council members made no comments when they voted on both motions.

Under current plans, the parking deck would result in paid street parking downtown for the first time in some 30 years. The council and city manager and a parking consultant have discussed free parking in the deck for the first hour, a rate of $2.50 for the next hour and $1.50 after that, up to a maximum of $10 a day. The cost for street downtown has been projected at $1.50 an hour. Parking would be free after 6 p.m. daily and on Sunday. Instead of bringing back meters, the city would install kiosks similar to those it uses at city owned paid parking lots.

The parking deck would replace 157 Dogwood spaces. Current lease holders of Dogwood spaces would have opportunity to get a space in the deck, at around $30-80/month.

Patel's Blue Star Hospitality Group was one of two respondents when the city invited developers to submit concepts for a downtown hotel with 80 to 120 rooms and meeting space for 150 to 300 people. Blue Star proposed conference space that would accommodate 200 people.

Blue Star has business relationships with Marriott International Inc., Hilton Worldwide, Wyndham Worldwide and Choice Hotels International Inc. Founded in 1995 when it built a Holiday Inn Express, Blue Star since then has developed 21 other hotel, retail and real estate projects in the Carolinas, Tennessee and Florida.

During the regular council meeting earlier Thursday night, Michael Gilligan, owner of the Church Street inn The Henderson, implored the council to reject the hotel.

“Not only do I own a business there but I live there and my two kids live there," he said. "I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I didn’t come here and voice my opinion that this is a bad idea.”

There are 20 hotels in the area, he said, competing for guests. He doubted that the proposed hotel would achieve its financial goal. “They want to have a 60 percent occupancy year-round,” he said. “It’s not going to happen.”

If the hotel fails, he added, it could go next to a lower-priced, lower quality brand. “I would hate to see a Motel 8 a block away from Main Street,” he said.

Caroline Gunter, owner of Wag! on Main Street and a member of the Downtown Advisory Board, urged the council to greenlight the hotel and parking deck.

"I am extremely emotionally invested in the wellbeing of Hendersonville downtown and the community," she said. "We have come this far for a reason. We are this close. This is a development project that the city of Hendersonville can be proud of. The Downtown Advisory Board is all in. I’m all in. Let’s do this."