Hendersonville – Tom and Fran Shipman have shifted their plans for The Cedars Lodge and Spa from a hotel with some condominiums to a condominium resort with a few hotel rooms.
They are transitioning from three and a half decades of catering to a dream of renovating the majestic century-old Cedars and their neighboring Chariot into a five-story resort on the edge of Downtown Hendersonville.
Since state rules shut down indoor dining March 15, “we never reopened” either The Cedars or The Chariot,” Tom said. “We had planned on shutting down by August, anyway.”
The couple is financing much of the 200,000-square-foot lodge-spa-conference center project, and formed a corporation to oversee its development.
“We’re talking to a couple of (major) companies to run the hotel and catering,” Tom Shipman further told the Tribune on Sunday. He has done catering since the mid-Eighties. Now he and Fran are newly retired from the “food business. Unless I come in part-time, and pitch in. Whoever runs the hotel will also be in charge of the food. But I’ll be hands on, to help in case I’m needed.”
Tamara Peacock Company Architects is designing the project and helped informed city officials of its preliminary details in late September.
The Focus is Now on Year-round Condos
But since then, the emphasis has changed to many more condos for more year-round revenue from their sales and monthly fees, as a financial safeguard, Tom Shipman said. “Hotels are hurting due to COVID. To make a hotel work, you need sixty percent occupancy” year-round, which seems formidable. “This way, we’re not sitting on a mortgage” with little money coming in.
“We’re thinking of 20 or so hotel rooms,” Tom said. Yet a pivotal plan is to use about half of the 140 condos as “lockout” hotel rooms for seasonal guests, that hotel management can rent out on behalf of condo owners not living here year-round. Condos will be on floors above hotel rooms, which have an initial, projected hotel room rate of $200 per night.
“We may even put some (premium-priced) hotel rooms into The Cedars,” Tom said. He said an engineer this week is to examine feasibility of “knocking out some of its walls” such as of sitting rooms.
Condo fees are estimated at $300,000 per unit, varying by size, and with twice that price for top-floor penthouse ones, Tom said.
“We’re trying to crunch figures, to make sure it works for all of us,” Tom said. “We’ve got a couple of lenders out of state” lined up, but “they want you to give them your arms and a leg.”
Conference Hall on Edge of Downtown
Plans are also for a 300-person conference hall local and outside groups can book, and a sports lounge in the renovated Cedars, Tom said.
He said a second new structure would contain a spa, fitness center, and three or four retail spaces. A landscaped public plaza is pegged for between these buildings and to include a pool, hot tub, outdoor seating and a retractable skylight.
Guests could stay in the resort for dining and shopping. They might also walk to dine and shop in historic Main Street and Seventh Avenue districts, boosting the local economy, Tom said.
“Our having a huge banquet hall, indoor pool, spa, and sports bar will attract people to Main Street’s amenities as well,” he reasons. He sees many more in-house amenities than the newly-announced Court House Inn project a half-mile down Church Street, or bed and breakfasts. But he said guests at one spot might see another and try it next time.
“It’s the perfect location. You’re one block off Main Street,” Tom Shipman said. The Cedars extends westward to Buncombe Street. The Chariot is just east of it, at 211 Seventh Ave. West northwest of Seventh and Church Street.
The proposed project would utilize four Shipman-owned parcels that total 1.26 acres, including the 61-space parking lot across Church Street. The project calls for 269 parking spaces — most underground. The site already abides by setback distance, and the building height limit.
Preserving Cedars’ Style, Charm
The Cedars Lodge and Spa would feature the circa-1911 historic three-and-a-half-story 15,000 square feet hotel at 227 Seventh Ave, West. Its renovation would preserve its Neo-Classical Revival charm. It was The Cedars Hotel lasting to 1969.
Tommy’s father Clifton Shipman (1923-2010), who started more than 25 businesses in town, bought the hotel in 1976. The Cedars features original, gallant tall columns, and rocking chairs across the renovated/extended veranda. Tom added an exterior stairway, and a gazebo in 2003.
Columns are a hallmark of Erle Stillwell designs of The Cedars, Hendersonville City Hall, and the Hendersonville High School (HHS) auditorium. Fran and Tom Shipman are HHS Hall of Famers and were sweethearts and 1969 grads. Tom was a Bearcat wrestler. Fran was a special ed teacher in HHS.
Cedars’ columns will be replaced with replicas, and century-old woodwork has “soft spots,” Tom said. “We’ll rebuild the whole front, and completely renovate The Cedars.” New brick will match current brick veneer. Two new buildings are to go up, with columns and similar brick to “blend right in,” Tom said.
The Cedars is named for the site’s huge, ancient cedars. As it is now, it seats 150 but holds 300 people standing in dining and “social” rooms.
The Chariot seats 180 people. The Chariot was popular Clifton’s Cafeteria in 1968-97, and Clifton named it after himself. Architect Peacock stated that The Chariot is getting beyond repair and “without a (multi-use) project like this, The Cedar’s restoration would be financially improbable.”
During the Korean War, Clifton Shipman gave boxed sandwiches to 100-250 new soldiers at a monthly train stop in town. A child of the Great Depression, he once told the Tribune that “I feel for people who can’t afford too much, and to help them best I can.”