Dining space for alley gets green light

Dec. 21, 2013 @ 10:22 PM

City leaders have OK’d a deal that will allow the would-be developers of a new hotel to build outdoor dining in part of what’s now the Holland Street alley.
The deal didn’t, however, sign away the city’s ownership of the alley, as was originally proposed.
Instead, the city is granting the Gentian Group LLC a “temporary easement” that allows outdoor dining next to the former Mutual Community Savings Bank building on West Chapel Hill Street.
Officials can revoke the easement on 90 days’ notice and require the removal of any fixtures the developers may have installed on it.
“This way, the city remains a stakeholder and retains a lot more control,” Assistant Planning Director Pat Young said.
The idea of closing the Holland Street alley and distributing title to it to the adjoining property owners had drawn opposition from neighboring businesses and other downtown interests.
Opponents of closure argued the alley is an important pedestrian walkway. It links Chapel Hill Street to the northern section of the downtown loop.
Others said the alley’s also a bit of a green space in a part of the city that generally lacks it.
The easement, which grew out of talks between the developers and city officials, includes a provision that will require Gentian to replace any existing trees that become sick or die.
The 90-day termination provision applies if the hotel goes out of business or stops using the outdoor dining, if the owners fail to properly maintain it, if they fail to deliver on their promises and even if city officials someday decide the dining space “is needed for a public purpose.”
The proposed hotel will include 54 rooms and has local government backing in the form of $1.2 million in promised business incentives from the city and county.
City Council members approved the easement last week.