Council Roundup: Councilors Wary of Possible Downtown Hotel
Raleigh City Councilors Tuesday voted to move forward with negotiations to put a new hotel downtown, but they want to make sure the design fits in the space.
Developers want to build Residence Inn-Marriott on a piece of city-owned land on Salisbury Street near the Performing Arts Center. The proposed 11-story hotel will house between 140 and 155 rooms and include ground floor retail and restaurant space.
While it was clear that all city councilors wanted the Appearance Commission’s input into the project, there was some debate as to how early that could be done.
Councilor Thomas Crowder said they “need to have a very clear understanding of how this is going to integrate into the urban fabric downtown” and wanted the commission to be involved from the very beginning. He said the commission’s recommendations should be included in the city’s negotiations.
The company submitted conceptual plans, but generally, the Appearance Commission is not brought into the design process until site plans are created.
Councilor John Odom said he doesn’t want the new hotel to be another Mint, referring to recently-closed restaurant that sits on city property. He added that he didn’t want the city to design it and end up with a building that isn’t functional.
Ultimately, councilors approved moving forward and asked that the Appearance Commission become involved in the design at the beginning of the site plan process.
New Tenant for the Mint
City Manager Russell Allen said the city has a prospective tenant for the now-closed Mint, a restaurant that was located on the ground floor of the city-owned building at 1 Exchange Plaza.
The Mint shut its doors earlier this month.
Allen said he is proposing a five-year lease term with a five-year renewal. The tenant could ride out the current lease, which has a little more than five years left on it, or sign a new lease. The city would offer rent abatement for the first six months and charge $18.47 per square foot, which would increase 2 percent each year.
Crowder said while he voted against The Mint four years ago, he would support a new tenant.
Councilor Bonner Gaylor said because there is no public expense, he is in support of a new tenant, but “I do think it puts us in a challenging situation to be in this business,” he said.
Gaylord added that he wanted more information about possibly selling that portion of the building.
The final vote was 7 to 1 with Councilor John Odom voting in opposition.
Parks and Rec Bonds Approved
Councilors approved $7.3 million in Parks and Recreation bonds that will be used to fund the completion of the Annie Louise Wilkerson Nature Park Preserve, the construction of the Bardwell Road Tennis Facility and upgrades to the Capital Area Soccer League facilities.
A fourth project slated for funding, an urban agricultural center in South Raleigh, was not on the agenda for approval.
Allen said the allocations for the soccer facilities haven’t been done yet, but said it’s likely that they could add turf to one of the larger Dix fields and add some fencing.
“A large amount of the investment would go into the Perry Creek facilities,” Allen said.
Crowder said he wants more of a breakdown of the costs associated with the soccer facilities and asked that it be moved into the Budget and Economic Development Committee for review.
He added that there are additional issues with environmental regulations, public funds for privately leased lands and that conversations should be had with Dix stakeholders to find out if a soccer field is the best use of the money.
Councilor Eugene Weeks said the city is lacking appropriate facilities for soccer tourism. People attending youth tournaments are only passing through Raleigh as they head to facilities in other parts of the state.
“We’re suppose to be number one in a lot of things,” Weeks said, “but when it comes to our youth and our sports complex, the city of Raleigh does not have anything to promote and business in.”
Weeks encouraged moving forward without further delays.
Allen said he will continue to come back to the council with updates on the design as well as the associated costs.
Loan Funding Available for Historic Church
An historic church that was damaged during last year’s tornado will be given a $91,000 loan for repairs.
The Gethsemane Seventh Day Adventist Church on South Person Street was constructed in 1920 and was the first of its kind in Raleigh. Raleigh Historic Development Commission staff said it is believed to be the second-oldest in the state.
The church sustained damage so severe during the April 2011 tornado that it was scheduled for demolition.
The funding for the rehabilitation will be provided by the city through the Preservation Revolving Loan Fund. The owner will have two years to repay the city.