Durham City Council Ok's Another Hotel Deal

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For the second time in as many months, the Durham City Council has approved an incentive laden deal to convert a languishing downtown building into a hotel.

The Council voted unanimously Monday night to approve $605,000 in tax incentives for the redevelopment of the former Mutual Community Savings Bank at 315 East Chapel Hill Street.

Local developer Gentian Group LLC plans to renovate the building into a 54-room “select service” hotel. (According to city economic development director, the “select service” designation indicates that it will offer a similar, if not as opulent, list of amenities as a “luxury” hotel).

The vote comes just weeks after the council approved a similarly structured $5.7 million incentive offer to 21c Museum Hotels for the redevelopment of the former Sun Trust Tower. The Kentucky-based company plans to purchase the Greenfire Development-owned building and convert it into a 125-room luxury hotel. Construction on the property is scheduled to begin in June of next year.

As was the case with the council’s vote on the 21c offer, representatives from the regular cast of downtown boosters were on-hand to advocate for adding additional hotel space in the city center. Even with the added hotel space that the Gentian project will bring, some 800 rooms are needed to make Durham an attractive destination for convention business, they told council members.

The city has nearly 3,000 available hotel rooms, but only a fraction of those allow for convenient access to downtown Durham, said Shelly Green, President and CEO of the Durham Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Much like the city’s offer to 21c, the Gentian deal requires that renovations to the building are completed, and the hotel open to occupants by April 2014, before any of the incentive money is paid.

Daniel Robinson, a partner in the Gentian Group, said the developers have also approached Durham County about contributing an matching incentive offer.

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