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City OKs five-story Court House Inn downtown

Rendering shows the five-story Court House Inn, from Second Avenue West. Rendering shows the five-story Court House Inn, from Second Avenue West.

After years of talk about the need for a new downtown hotel — and with two competing projects possible — a five-story hotel on North Church Street became the first to cross the finish line for city approval on Thursday.

The Hendersonville City Council during its regular monthly meeting authorized the 69-room boutique hotel containing a restaurant, small bar and meeting spaces.

In addition to the Court House Inn project, the Shipman family has announced plans to develop the Cedars property on U.S. 64 at North Church Street for a hotel and the city has been negotiating with a Fletcher developer to built a hotel on the city-owned Dogwood parking lot on North Church Street between Fourth and Fifth avenues. Mayor Barbara Volk said she doubted the hotel would hurt B&Bs because some people like traditional hotels and some like B&Bs.

The developer, Catellus, plans to buy the old Lampley Motor Co. land for the project. The now vacant three-quarter acre lot is the second largest parcel downtown, behind the Historic Courthouse land across the street, said Walter Fields, a planning consultant for the developer. "This creates an opportunity for us to use a large tract to support the other uses, the comprehensive plan calls for," including shops, dining and entertainment, he said.

The Hendersonville Planning Board voted 4-1 last month to recommend that the City Council rezone the property to allow Catellus to build the 55,000-square-foot hotel on a three-quarter acre parcel of vacant land on North Church Street between First and Second avenues.

The City Council's approval for the five-story Court House Inn came after the Historic Preservation Commission decided on Tuesday that the design is compatible with the character of Historic Downtown Hendersonville.

The historic board's blessing came after the developer and architect agreed to numerous concessions the Historic Preservation Commission's design advisory committee requested. Even, Historic Preservation Committee members fired more questions at the architect for the project and extracted a commitment to make the backside of the hotel, which faces First Avenue West, more visually appealing.
“I think there’s something about it that seems very monolithic,” board member Derek Cote said.
“The front seems to play toward the historic district and you get around to that (rear) and it’s contemporary artificial materials,” board chair Cheryl Jones said.
The architect, Stephen Overcash, said the developer would change the material on the back wall from brown hardy board to brick. The other sides are a mix of brick and stucco.
“We wanted to have good edge on all three streets,” Overcash said. “We created a public plaza that anybody can use. We’re very sensitive to creating public space. We’re sort of between the downtown highly commercial and the residential district to the south of us. … We didn’t want it to be all brick or all siding” but instead wanted a mix.
“We’ve gone through all the 18 comments” of the design advisory committee and made changes in response.

Developer Stephen Barker told the Historic Preservation Commission that investors have gone as far as they can in making design changes.
“What we’ve done is we have put more money into the First Avenue side and to the parking deck so the costs have gone up dramatically on this project,” he said. But if the Historic Preservation Commission were to demand even more costly changes, the project would become financially undoable. “That’s a thin line that we have to be careful of. We really put the money on the other three sides, that’s the bottom line.”