Carrboro’s first hotel hopes to open Friday

Aug. 17, 2013 @ 01:46 PM

If all goes according to plan, Carrboro’s first hotel will open for business Friday.
The Hampton Inn will join The Franklin Hotel and The Carolina Inn in the downtown areas of Chapel Hill and Carrboro, adding a less expensive option for visitors wanting to stay in the heart of town.
Last week as it raced toward the opening date, bricklayers built flower boxes out front, cleaning crews scrubbed and shined every piece of furniture, gardeners planted bushes and trees and workers prepared to finish up some last-minute details in the lobby and conference rooms.
The hotel, at 370 East Main St. near The ArtsCenter and Cat’s Cradle, is all tile and shiny granite. Each of the 142 rooms in the five-story brick hotel has a number and a unique picture at its doorway that evokes simpler times.
The small, medium and large conference rooms are named The Hatchell Room, The Smith Room and The Williams Room for UNC’s basketball coaches, Sylvia Hatchell, Dean Smith and Roy Williams.
Although the hotel doesn’t have a restaurant of its own, it has a free breakfast bar and a full kitchen for caterers to use for conferences, weddings and other events. The preferred list of caters are all from Carrboro and Chapel Hill, said Kevin Rooney, the general manager of the hotel.
“We want to stress Carrboro,” Rooney said. “We’re in Carrboro.”
The hotel purchased photographs to decorate some of its rooms from Jesse Kalisher, who has a studio across the street from the hotel. In one of the larger suites, his photographs include a shot of the 50-yard line at Kenan Stadium and the Varsity Theatre sign.
The Hampton has the feel of an upscale hotel, but it’s less expensive than the other downtown hotels. A check of each of the downtown hotels websites indicates that a room with two queen beds for Sept. 21, a Saturday night on a non-UNC football weekend, costs $284 at The Franklin Hotel, $188.30 at the Carolina Inn and $169 at the Hampton Inn.
Although the Hampton is in Carrboro, it is close to the Chapel Hill line, and people can easily walk to restaurants or events in Chapel Hill or Carrboro and to the UNC campus. Or they can hop a bus at a stop just outside the hotel and ride for free.
“It is a big change,” said Patti Benedict, the leasing agent and one of the partners of 305 East Main Street, the company that is developing the property. “It adds a nice element in terms of having a hotel in Carrboro. People like the walkability of downtown.”
The Hampton also has one thing that The Franklin and the Carolina Inn don’t have – a swimming pool on the second floor and a large pool deck big enough for parties, weddings and other events.
The Friday opening date could be moved back a few days if the final inspections are delayed, but the hotel has already accepted reservations for Sept. 6 and beyond.
“We’re very happy with the response we’ve gotten from folks,” said Manish Atma, the principal partner and owner of the hotel. “People are coming for conferences, weddings, events, sports events, visiting the University, the hospital. It’s a different mix.”
The 2013 Bike Summit, which was held in Raleigh last year, will be held in October at the hotel.
The hotel is in an area that is ever-changing and represents Carrboro old and new. Across the street is one of Carrboro’s favorite stores, Surplus Sid’s, which is an Army surplus store, an auto parts store, a hip restaurant and bar and fast food place.
Not every room has a million-dollar view, but many of the rooms look across the treetops or down onto the pool.
The hotel is surrounded by restaurants, with the Milltown and Gourmet Kingdom across the street, Amante Gourmet Pizza next door, and nearly 100 other restaurants and coffee shops within walking distance in Chapel Hill and Carrboro.
Three new independent restaurants will be on the ground floor near the entrance to the hotel, including Hickory Tavern, a family-friendly sports bar. Its owners have restaurants in Charlotte and other North Carolina and South Carolina cities.
A restaurant group from Raleigh also plans to open an empanada and tequila bar, and a second restaurant called East Main Meatball Shoppe, based on the trendy meatball restaurant concept out of New York City, said Patti Benedict, the leasing agent and a partner in Main Street Partners, which is developing the site.
Work has already started on up-fitting the restaurant spaces, and she said they hope to open in early November.
Cameron’s, the gift shop that has been a mainstay at University Mall for decades, will be moving the ground floor outside the hotel, and she believes it will be opening in late September or early October.