Hotel-retail project planned for Carrboro, N.C.


Oct. 2--CARRBORO -- Citizens and visitors to the town may see construction activity on the future site of 300 East Main Street as soon as 2009.

Laura Van Sant of developer Main Street Properties said Wednesday the first step will be demolishing the current location of Performance Bicycle and some houses nearby. The first phase of 300 East Main Street -- including a hotel, part of a parking deck and other retail and office space -- could open for business in 2010.

Performance Bicycle is moving in December to the Shops at Eastgate in Chapel Hill. New space for the Cat's Cradle may be included in phase one, Van Sant said, pending a final decision regarding where in the development the music club will be located. Cat's Cradle will remain open regardless.

"We certainly don't want to do anything that would jeopardize the Cradle anyway," Van Sant said.

Main Street Properties still has to meet several permitting requirements before any physical work is done. Town staff members will review a construction plan and architectural designs, while the Carrboro Appearance Commission must approve the parking deck.

The Board of Aldermen wants a courtesy review of that structure as well, which will have approximately 500 parking spaces at the end of phase one and more than 800 spaces when complete.

"It was a long time coming so we certainly were happy to get [approval]," Van Sant said. "There's a lot of work left to be done."

Hilton or Hampton?

Also left to be decided is which hotel chain will occupy a prominent position in Carrboro's downtown. The subject received an infusion of uncertainty Tuesday night when Van Sant told the Board of Aldermen that the planned Hilton Garden Inn may actually end up being a Hampton Inn and Suites.

The exterior of the hotel and most of the amenities within would be the same regardless of the name on the sign, said Manish Atma, founder of Atma Hotel Group, the company that will own and manage the property.

"Just the name, that's it," Atma said of the essential differences between a Hilton Garden Inn and a Hampton Inn and Suites, which are both part of the Hilton Family of Hotels. "The furnishings, the layout -- that will not change one bit."

"All a Hilton Garden Inn is is a Hampton Inn with a restaurant," Atma said.

Atma said he wants to put one of each hotel in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro market. Which one ends up in Carrboro and which ends up targeted for Chapel Hill is still a matter of discussion.

Atma said if there is any reason that he may favor putting the Hampton Inn and Suites at 300 East Main Street it's because the brand is more recognizable compared with the newer Hilton Garden Inn chain.

The Board of Aldermen unanimously approved a Conditional Use Permit for the 300 East Main Street project Tuesday. Although Alderwoman Jacquelyn Gist said she was voting in favor of the CUP only because the proposal met town requirements, other board members expressed optimism.

"I think there's always room for improvement and that's our job," said Alderman John Herrera. "I think in these times of economic insecurity we need now more than ever a stronger financial base, and I think the redevelopment of downtown is good for the environment, it's good for the tax base. My heart will not be broken when I see that beautiful hotel paying taxes."

Alderwoman Lydia Lavelle called 300 East Main Street "a wonderful project." She said development will bring needed commercial space to the town, and the hotel in particular will make Carrboro a contender for tourism and convention dollars.

"Those people will be here all day long, eating, shopping, walking around and using Carrboro," Lavelle said. "It's going to be a great project for us."