Concord seeks incentive for McPherson Hospital redevelopment project

Feb. 07, 2013 @ 10:43 AM

The Raleigh-based hotel company that planned to incorporate part of a historic hospital building on West Main Street into a new hotel has made a request for city and county incentives for the project.

Concord Hospitality Enterprises Co. got approval from the Board of Adjustment in August 2011 for a minor special-use permit for the hotel project. A company official had said in a previous interview with The Herald-Sun that construction was targeted to begin by the end of last year’s first quarter.

Kevin McAteer, vice president of sales and marketing for Concord, said in an email that the company is finishing the design and hopes to bid out to the project this summer, and to begin building before the year’s end. Attempts to get additional information from Concord officials about the incentive request were not successful this week.

Marqueta Welton, deputy county manager, said an initial request was made for $5 million in both city and county incentives. She said that according to the company, efforts to “accommodate some of the community’s requests have escalated their costs.”  County government staff is analyzing the incentive request to the county to see if it’s feasible, before it goes to the Durham County Board of Commissioners, she said.

On the city side, Kevin Dick, director of the City of Durham Office of Economic and Workforce Development, said discussions are ongoing about the request to the city that Concord made in December or November. He said a recommendation about the request is expected to go to the city manager in a few weeks, and a recommendation may or may not follow to the Durham City Council.

The request is being made as some of the company’s development costs may have come in higher than initially anticipated, said Dick, who declined to name the amount of the request to the city.

“(There was) a pretty extensive discussion with the neighborhoods…a lot of discussion to ensure that the project, as designed, is kind of what the neighborhood would feel most comfortable having next to it,” Dick said.

At one time, Concord had plans to demolish the historic McPherson Hospital structure on the site, which was built in 1926, according to information on the website for Preservation Durham, a group that promotes the restoration of historic homes and commercial properties.

The hospital came to specialize in eye, ear, nose and throat care, according to Preservation Durham. What became the N.C. Eye, Ear, Nose & Throat Hospital is now renamed the N.C. Specialty Hospital. The hospital moved in 2005 to North Roxboro Street, said Randi Shults, the hospital’s CEO.

To help develop a plan neighbors could get behind, Concord Hospitality officials worked with residents of the adjacent historic Trinity Park neighborhood, and hired a design consultant, Belk Architecture. The company planned to incorporate a portion of the structure into the hotel.

“The neighborhood put extensive work into the project working with the developer, and in the end, we were very pleased with the plans that are now on record with the city,” said Julia Borbely-Brown, president of the Trinity Park Neighborhood Association.  “And of course, we do have some concern about the fact that this property has not…has been vacant for so long; the construction has not begun,” she added.

Dick said the property has a “good deal of importance” because of its location between Duke’s East Campus and Ninth and Broad streets as well as downtown, and near Trinity Park.

 “Also, it’s clearly an under-utilized, and blighted property, and it’s been in a state of underutilization and blight for some time now,” Dick said. “Redevelopment of it would definitely be important for downtown, and for Durham, in general.”

He said generally, considerations of any incentive request involve questions of how good an investment would be for the city, the number of jobs a project would create, the amount of private investment and costs compared to incoming tax revenue.

“All of those are considered, and all of those things go into the evaluation that the city uses if the incentive is worth presenting to council,” Dick said.

Durham Mayor Bill Bell said he’d heard an amount for a requested incentive from Concord, but didn’t want to repeat the number.

“I haven’t seen the justification for it, the amount I’ve’ heard – I don’t want to repeat it,” Bell said. “I think it’s out of reach, as far as (I’m) concerned.”

Bell said the property is a “prime spot in town,” and as it stands now, it’s a “distraction to the neighborhood.”

“It’s a distraction from my viewpoint,” he said. “It’s an eyesore to the city. What we’re trying to do is keep Durham beautiful.”