The team which is finalizing details in a bid to buy the historic Colonial Inn brings passion and practical experience to the deal, its attorney said Friday.
The team is local to the Triangle and has several historic preservation projects under its belt, Hillsborough attorney Sam Coleman said. Team members include engineering, architecture and construction professionals, as well as someone with extensive experience in the restaurant and hospitality industry.
“They understand the enormity of (the project), the complexity of it and how much it means to the town,” Coleman said, “and they will truly educate people at the appropriate time ... hopefully in the near future, about what they plan to do with the property.”
That will include seeking input from the community, he said.
“They are passionate about the town of Hillsborough,” Coleman noted. “We think it’s a boon for the town, because it hopefully will be an inn, and a restaurant and a bar, just like it used to be when it first started.”
The prospective owners’ planned boutique hotel also could include a small event space, he said.
The contract-pending deal to buy the 10,000-square-foot Colonial Inn, built in 1838 at 153 W. King St., has been in place since early November. Once a hotel for travelers, and later a popular restaurant, the inn has fallen into disrepair since 2001 when owner Francis Henry bought the property at auction.
Henry has since wrestled with the town over repairs and how he could use the property. The town filed an eminent-domain action in July 2014 but reached a mediated agreement in April that gives Henry time to sell the inn to new owners.
The news that someone might revive the inn, built in 1838, has spread quickly, inspiring speculation. Coleman fanned the flames of curiosity this week when he appeared in a Hillsborough Police Department holiday photo with a truckload of toys and a sign wishing residents peace and love “from the (future) Colonial Inn.”
“We were doing it to garner some attention to the Colonial Inn and hopefully cheer people up and say, hey, we’re working on it,” he said. “It was also done in the right spirit, and I’m serious about that, which is that these people want to be a member of the community.”
Coleman re-posted the photo Thursday on the Facebook page for the Save the Colonial Inn group, confirming there is a “serious buyer of the Colonial Inn who is excited to have the property under contract and plans to close on it in the near future.”
If the deal goes through, the team could submit a rezoning and development application to the town by spring at the earliest, Coleman said. The timing will depend on the complexity of the details, he added.
The team has several other historical tax credit projects in North Carolina and would preserve as much of the Inn’s original structure as possible, he said. The building is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and is considered a structure contributing to Hillsborough’s historic district.
“It had a roof put on it a few years ago, which kind of ... kept the old part preserved and intact. It’s actually the most solid part of it,” he said.
State and federal tax credits are available for the renovation and repair of historic properties, although the federal historic tax credit, established in the 1970s, is at risk under the federal tax reform plan. That credit allows developers to deduct up to 20 percent of their eligible expenses for historic property projects.
The Colonial Inn is listed with Seagle and Associates for $875,000. The town still could buy the property if Henry doesn’t find a suitable buyer by April 9.