Orange County

See what new owners plan for Hillsborough’s historic Colonial Inn

A new owner bought the historic Colonial Inn on Monday, Jan. 8, 2018. The building, located at 153 W. King St. in Hillsborough, was built in 1838 as a hotel but later became a popular restaurant for locals and tourists.
A new owner bought the historic Colonial Inn on Monday, Jan. 8, 2018. The building, located at 153 W. King St. in Hillsborough, was built in 1838 as a hotel but later became a popular restaurant for locals and tourists. cliddy@newsobserver.com

The Colonial Inn’s new owners have a plan to preserve and expand the historic landmark so it can again become part of the vibrant downtown business community.

Allied DevCorp LLC paid $800,000 for the inn at 153 W. King St. in January. The plan is to renovate the two-story structure, which was built in 1838 as a hotel and later became a popular restaurant. The inn is on the National Register of Historic Places and a contributing structure in Hillsborough’s historic district.

A renovation plan shows the current kitchen and dining rooms are structurally unstable. A new floor and a new roof will be required.

The project expands the Colonial Inn from roughly 10,000 square feet to 17,600 square feet. A restaurant serving breakfast, lunch and dinner would be located on the first floor, plus a bar, private dining room and conference room. The second floor would offer a larger event center, as well as four boutique guestrooms.

Colonial Inn site plan.jpg
A proposed site plan for the renovated Colonial Inn shows the main building at the top center and a new guest wing at the bottom. A loading zone and new sidewalk front the property along West King Street. The west side of the property includes a new wedding lawn surrounded by brick paths and a new brick patio. Justin Fejfar Allied DevCorp LLC

Another 18 guestrooms would be in a new, two-story wing along the back of the property, connected to the main building by a patio and brick pathways surrounding a landscaped wedding lawn.

Town permits would be required for outdoor events, which could include live music until 9 p.m. Indoor music could last until midnight, however, the developer plans to add soundproofing materials to the renovated building.

The new business would operate from 6:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily.

“The ultimate goal is to uphold the mission of The Town of Hillsborough’s dedication to preservation of historical properties, maintaining the building’s historic value and promoting the cultural significance through the business itself,” according to recently submitted plans.

The Hillsborough Town Board and its Planning Board will review the plans at 7 p.m. Thursday, July 19, in the Town Annex Board Meeting Room on East Corbin Street.

The half-acre lot must be rezoned from residential to central commercial special use before it can be operated as a business. The inn sits between the town’s historic homes and several downtown businesses, just a short walk from Churton Street.

The Historic District Commission, which must approve the exterior design and materials, reviewed the plans July 9. It asked the developer to re-use any historically significant or original materials in the new construction. It also offered recommendations for lighting, paving, landscaping and the second building’s design.

How guests and the roughly 20 anticipated employees will access the building and where they will park could be critical topics for Thursday’s meeting. The plan doesn’t include any parking, although the town requires 35 spaces for a similar-size project.

The developer, after talking with the State Historic Preservation office and local civil engineers, decided it is not feasible to add parking and maintain the site’s historical features and topography. Instead, the inn would rely on valet service and several downtown lots.

Colonial Inn parking map.jpg
Colonial Inn owner Allied DevCorp LLC is asking to forego parking on the property. Instead, the owner plans to provide a valet service and use public and private parking lots throughout downtown.

Orange County has approved the developer’s use of its Margaret Lane parking deck, the developer states, and a private parking lot is available for lease. At least four more public and county lots are nearby.

An existing driveway easement off Margaret Lane would provide access for trash and recycling trucks. The developer would need a waiver of the requirement to leave a 50-foot buffer between the driveway and adjoining homes.

Delivery trucks would use a planned loading zone at the site’s eastern corner, as would guests who are checking in and loading and unloading luggage.

The biggest change would be the loss of on-street parking in front of the Colonial Inn to create room for a new, 10-foot sidewalk that is accessible to people with disabilities. The town’s current sidewalk intersects the inn’s rock steps on both sides of a covered porch.

Although a narrow, older sidewalk juts out in front of the porch, it requires pedestrians to navigate short, steep concrete ramps to the street level before making a sharp turn onto the rock and slate surface. The old sidewalk also is uneven and broken in places.

The change would eliminate about 10 on-street parking spaces, but would create a continuous sidewalk along the block. A low, brick wall would be added along the western end of the new sidewalk but keep the existing stone path to the inn’s lawn.

The changes also would significantly reduce the existing tree cover from 32 percent of the property — 16 trees could be removed — to 8 percent. The developer would maintain wooded areas near West King Street and could add several new trees after construction.

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The inn has fallen into disrepair since former owner Francis Henry bought it at auction in 2001 for $440,000. Henry and the town wrangled for years over repairs and how the property could be used. An eminent-domain action filed in July 2014 forced Henry to sell the inn to new owners.

The inn’s historic status will allow Allied DevCorp LLC to get state and federal tax credits for the renovation project. Justin Fejfar, a principal and co-founder of FDR Engineers in Research Triangle Park, manages the company. Hillsborough attorney Sam Coleman, who handled the deal for the buyers, has said they include experts in engineering, architecture, construction, and the restaurant and hospitality industries.

What’s next

The Hillsborough Town Board and the Planning Board will hold a joint public hearing at 7 p.m. Thursday, July 19, in the Town Annex Board Meeting Room, 105 E. Corbin St.

Also in Hillsborough news

Hillsborough is undertaking a West Fork Eno Reservoir expansion that will support residential and commercial growth into the future. The $16 million project will create 3 million gallons of water capacity.

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