Hendersonville – The Court House Inn, a boutique hotel planned near the historic Henderson County Courthouse and Curb Market, has secured rezoning to proceed ahead.
Preliminary plans are for 69 hotel rooms, in a five-story, 55,000-square foot structure on a .78-acre lot which is 33,765 square feet. The building is to house 10,523 of hotel space and nearly that much space in a two-level parking garage, the city’s Community Development report further noted about the preliminary site plan.
The inn’s name refers to it being a mere block west of the Historic Courthouse, but is spelled out as Court House. The vacant project site is between First and Second avenues, and also busy one-way (southbound) Church Street and Washington Street. It is on the western edge of Downtown Hendersonville.
The developer is Catellus Group, LLC of Charlotte. Catellus’ Stephen Baker and Walter Fields told city officials plan details, in gaining rezoning.
Victorian-styled towers stand out, Fields said, the style blends in with some nearby homes and other buildings. Project architect Stephen Overcash said Catellus studied Hendersonville buildings over the past 120 years, to find a fit and customize the look.
A public plaza is also slated for the corner of Second Avenue West and North Church Street, he said, and a 2,000-square-foot courtyard is planned for the First Avenue West side.
The site was zoned C-1. Upon City Community Development Director Lew Holloway’s recommendation, Hendersonville City Council on Dec. 3 approved rezoning it to C-1 CZD which is Central Business Conditional Zoning District, subject to conditions such for parking and any usage limits. Hotels are a permitted C-1 use in the city.
Rooftop View of Main Street is a Perk
The other hotel project in the works — the plush Cedars Lodge and Spa — would be nearly a half-mile north on Church Street. A major difference is Cedars Lodge plans condos. Yet many could be rented as hotel rooms, and thus rival Court House. Cedars Lodge is to include a conference hall, indoor pool, sports bar and restaurant.
Court House Inn planned amenities include for a restaurant, bar, and a rooftop gathering space (instead of more hotel rooms) with a clear view of the Historic Courthouse dome and much of one-mile-long Main Street’s street-scape.
Ironically, one issue is who is looking at what. The Historic Courthouse’s community room has a westward view the Inn would blocked. A select few residents objected to the project at recent city meetings, more on how at five stories it would visually rival the historic Courthouse and compromise downtown’s aesthetics.
Further, to blend in with downtown, the planning board suggests a more dynamic from “additional architectural detail” such as on facades of ground-level storefronts and the parking structure.
Council member Jerry Smith praised the Inn’s proposed look. He suggested Council reexamine the city’s height limit for structures downtown.
City voters in a referendum 14 years ago kept a height limit of 64 feet, rather than 80 feet that would have allowed a high-rise project or two. Back then, developers insisted they needed the extra two floors for greater capacity and thus financial sustainability. Their condo-apartment projects did not materialize, as severe recession neared.
Project’s Parking Garage Big Enough?
Sufficient parking is a longtime public concern for Downtown Hendersonville. Parking was the focus of City Planning Board debate of the project, before it was approved in a split vote Nov. 11 and sent to Council.
Plans are for a parking deck to have 60 regular spaces plus four for handicapped drivers only. Should the hotel get guests in all 69 rooms and they each came in one car, then guests of nine rooms would not have on-site parking and would use other parking meant for shoppers and diners.
Barker assured the planning board there would be enough on-site parking, given a projected average of 70 percent capacity which means needing 43 of 60 regular parking spaces. Further, four rooms were shaved in plans, from the original total of 73.
By varying ground height a block apart, the 64-space garage would have entrances from the mid-blocks of First (for the ground level) and Second (for level two) avenues. The ground level could be below the hotel, and the second level next to it.
The garage blueprint does not yet show an internal link between the two parking levels. The planning board suggests better pedestrian access from the hotel’s rear plaza to First Avenue. That encourages strolling to downtown and patronizing businesses there. It meets downtown’s “pedestrian-focused” ambience.
Urging a Makeover
The planning board also urged developers to “explore additional material variety on the building’s southern (First Avenue) façade through windows, brick or alternative details — to break up the larger sections of blank facade.”
The final site plan must spell out lighting.
The city is on track to build a $9.2 million parking deck at Fifth Avenue West, at the Dogwood lot between Church and Washington streets. City officials for years have talked of seeing a hotel chain there. Council member Jeff Miller said with emergence of other hotel projects downtown, Dogwood should be developed for other uses.
Impact of a hotel on downtown’s bed and breakfasts sparks debate apt to linger. Mayor Barbara Volk among others foresees lower prices for the Inn compared to B&Bs, and Cedars Lodge.
Instead, Volk sees the Inn rivaling chain hotels just north of I-26 and town and locating visitors right in Hendersonville instead of with highway access to Asheville and beyond.