FAYETTEVILLE — The City Council on Tuesday discussed a proposal for a new downtown hotel, but held off on making a decision.
Council members voted 8-0 to table the resolution for two weeks.
The proposed seven-story, 134-room hotel would stand just south of the Upper Ramble where the 290-space parking lot across from the Walton Arts Center is set to be redeveloped into a public space as part of the city’s cultural arts corridor project. A new parking deck northwest of Dickson Street will replace the spaces that are lost when the lot is transformed into a civic plaza.
The arts corridor is funded by $30 million in voter-approved bonds, but some components of the project will require partnerships with private developers, said Peter Nierengarten, the city’s environmental director
“Bond funding was only enough to build the outdoor components of the project, and so the buildings that were shown were always placeholders for partnership developments,” Nierengarten said.
The city last fall began an RFP process to find a development partner for the building that voters were shown on the southern end of the plaza. Shortly after that, negotiations began with Fayetteville developer Brian Reindl, who owns the Metro District building just south of the civic plaza where Cork & Keg, Rolando’s Restaurante and several other businesses are located.
Fayetteville architect Rob Sharp is heading up design of the hotel, while South Carolina-based Windsor Aughtry, which specializes in projects based in college towns across the southeast part of the country, is the hotel consultant. Fayetteville’s C.R. Crawford Construction is the general contractor. Estimated cost of the development is $50 million.
Sharp said the plan is to work with the landscape of the civic plaza, which features the daylighting of a currently covered creek that will create a diagonal canal across the park space alongside a walkway that will connect the northern and southern ends of the site.
“We wanted to establish a piece of our building in direct response to that walkway,” Sharp told the council.
When approaching the hotel from the north, people will see a restaurant with indoor seating and outdoor cafe space, alongside retail frontage and a hotel lobby that will feature public art and a pass-through element so people can see through the building.
The hotel would include up to 45 basement-level parking spaces, with guest parking handled through a valet system. Employees would park off site, Sharp said.
Six people spoke against the proposal during public comment, including Steve Clark, president and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce local developer Ted Belden who is working on a food hall building on the north side of the plaza and a separate hotel project across Dickson Street.
Most of those against said more time is needed to examine the parking situation in the area. Others said they simply don’t want to see a hotel next to the new civic space.
Seven people spoke in favor of building the hotel, including a few downtown business owners like Kevin Frey of Puritan, Bo Counts of Pinpoint, and Jerry Davis of 21st Amendment, Rogers Rec and Los Bobos.
Most of those in favor said the downtown area needs more hotel rooms and while parking is important, that’s something that can be ironed out in the design process by the hotel developers.
Frey said he recently removed parking spaces at Puritan to expand outdoor eating options. He said if you build things that are a draw, people will come whether or not parking is available.
Several council members said they would likely support the resolution, but others expressed hesitation after hearing concerns about parking.
Councilmember Sarah Bunch said she likes valet parking at hotels because she prefers to walk around a downtown area and not worry about her car when traveling. Sharp said that philosophy is shared by many travelers, and told the council studies have shown that 70% of guests use valet parking in downtown hotels across the country.
Councilmember Holly Hertzberg asked where the other 30% of guests will park if the hotel is built. Sharp said they’ll do what everyone else does – use one of the three nearby parking garages or any of the on-street public spaces.
Councilmember Teresa Turk said when the public voted on the bond issue for an arts corridor, a hotel was not in the plan. Councilmember Sarah Bunch disagreed, and said several buildings were shown as part of the plan, all of which were described as having some type of commercial activity through public-private partnerships. Bunch said She said a new downtown hotel has been discussed for many years, and she believes the hotel fits the vision that was presented to voters.
Councilmember Mark Kinion suggested tabling the resolution to allow time to consider the parking questions and some of the points brought up by City Attorney Kit Williams in a series of memos where he questioned the language in the resolution’s letter of intent.
Councilmembers Sonia Harvey, D’Andre Jones and Sloan Scroggin all said they like the proposal, but agreed to take more time to consider the concerns.
The discussion will continue at the council’s next meeting on Nov. 1.