Hard Hat Tour From The Top of the Residence Inn Raleigh Downtown

View from the upcoming rooftop bar at the Residence Inn Raleigh Downtown.

View from the upcoming rooftop bar at the Residence Inn Raleigh Downtown.

A big thanks goes out to Summit Hospitality, a local development group behind the Residence Inn hotel on Salisbury Street, for inviting me along one of their recent hard hat tours of the building. The hotel is nearing completion and should be welcoming guests in June.

View from the upcoming rooftop bar at the Residence Inn Raleigh Downtown.

View from the upcoming rooftop bar at the Residence Inn Raleigh Downtown.

With a contemporary flare, the hotel is not the typical Residence Inn. Included is a rooftop bar that the owners want the locals to embrace as well. Situated on the southeast corner of the building, the outdoor patio overlooks the performing arts center and the lush green tree canopy south of Raleigh. (shown in the two photos above)

Once finished, it should be a draw as it’ll be the highest outdoor bar in downtown Raleigh. The owners are also local conscious rather than make it “hotel bar generico”.

I’m excited but I just can’t help be teased at the view from a top floor corner suite on the northeast corner and think, “Why wasn’t the bar on THIS corner?”

View from a tenth floor suite at the Residence Inn Raleigh Downtown.

View from a tenth floor suite at the Residence Inn Raleigh Downtown.

8-Room Boutique Hotel, Guest House Raleigh, Takes Big Step Forward

400 Block of South Bloodworth Street, February 2017.

400 Block of South Bloodworth Street, February 2017.

This past weekend, two historic homes rolled through downtown Raleigh from previous sites to new ones. The two houses along the 100 block of East Lenoir Street were moved to the 400 block of South Bloodworth Street to make way for a new 12-story, Element-branded hotel. Demolition of the Baptist Convention Headquarters building should follow soon.

Catch up on that project here.

Ahead of schedule!!

A post shared by Guest House Raleigh (@guesthouseraleigh) on

As the new hotel is being worked on, one of the two historic houses will also be used for some downtown hospitality. The Gorham House will be renovated this year and there are plans for it to house an 8-room boutique hotel called Guest House Raleigh. You can follow the progress of the project on their Instagram account.

For a boutique hotel, this area of downtown is actually a great location being only two blocks from City Market and four from Fayetteville Street. It also won’t feel like the edge of town as progress on Stone’s Warehouse, to the east of Guest House, should start up as the developers finally closed on the site.

A huge congratulations to those behind Guest House Raleigh. I’m hoping big success there so others might take a stab at going the boutique route rather than the safer, more sterile hotel route.

Latest Update for Dual-Brand Hotel on Davie Street

Corner of Davie and McDowell Street, December 2016.

Corner of Davie and McDowell Street, December 2016.

Revisiting a topic we talked about in May 2015, new site plans for a hotel at the corner of Davie and McDowell Streets popped up at the city recently.

Plans show a 259-room dual-brand (Hilton Garden and Homewood Suites) hotel with interior parking in a 13-story building. The site plans suggest a different building style compared to the appearance commission renderings we saw in 2015. (no more curved corner?)

As always, here’s the site plan map for your viewing pleasure.

Site Plan sr-102-16 for Hilton Garden and Homewood Suites Downtown Raleigh

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The site plan doesn’t indicate any ground-floor retail. I’m not saying there won’t be any; it’s just that this plan doesn’t show it.

The parking garage entrance would be along Davie Street indicated by the driveway in the plan.

I also spotted some outdoor spaces. The 14th floor will have a terrace in addition to a 2nd and 5th floor balconies.

One key detail to note is that the former Morton Trophy portion of the area is not part of this development. It’s predominantly the Turn Key Tire station, the red brick building that will be demolished to make way for this new hotel.

Former site of Morton Trophy on Davie Street

Former site of Morton Trophy on Davie Street

I also want to guess, seriously just a guess, that the “delay” in this project comes as a result in the council changing the required amount of parking for hotels in the downtown area.

You can revisit that topic here but in short, the required amount of parking for hotels was reduced in early 2016 from 1 space per hotel room to 1 space for every 2 hotel rooms. That sounds like incentive enough to rethink some development plans.

We’ll keep on eye on this one as it progresses.

Municipography, Downtown Hotel Parking and Moore Square Transit Station Renovation

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Municipography is a summary of current issues going through the Raleigh City Council and other municipal departments in the city. The point is to try to deliver any video, photos, and text associated with the discussions happening at City Hall or elsewhere. Since this is a downtown Raleigh blog, the focus is on the center of the city.

Downtown Hotel Parking Requirements

If the video above does not show for you, click here to watch it.

If the development of hotels in downtown Raleigh is of interest to you then you first need to jump back to this October 2015 post about the Downtown Hotel Market Study. (if you haven’t seen it already)

A point from that study that was discussed at this council meeting was the fact that the hotel parking requirements in downtown were the same as the rest of the city. One parking space was required for each hotel room built. However, with higher land prices and alternative transit options, that need was recommended to be too high and the city should explore reducing it.

From the council agenda:

At the October 20, 2015 meeting, City Council directed staff to investigate reducing parking requirements for downtown hotels in response to a recommendation presented as part of the Raleigh Downtown Hotel Market Study. The current requirement downtown is the same as the citywide standard: one parking space per room. Staff analysis finds that the parking requirement can be reduced by half or more without adverse impact, which would greatly improve the economics of downtown hotel development.

In the video above, there was some discussion among the council about sending this piece to the planning commission for a recommendation.

Councilor Mary-Ann Baldwin wanted the planning commission to explore reducing it to more than half. Councilor Bonner Gaylord even wanted to expand the reduction to other property types. Councilor Kay Crowder suggested that a trial be done first before implementing the changes.

The main takeaway from the discussion was that these reductions are a move that supports mass transit. With momentum building for the new Wake County Transit Plan and a possible referendum this year in order to finance this transit plan, the reduction in parking would further support these initiatives.

City Manager Ruffin Hall mentioned that a downtown comprehensive parking study was underway, looking at hotel parking and other uses so more data will be available in the near future.

It was decided that the request to planning commission would be only on the hotels parking piece rather than all parking due to the fact that some hotels are being planned in the immediate future. They might benefit from a quicker decision rather than wait for a complete parking strategy overhaul for downtown.

We’ll follow this next in planning commission.

GoRaleigh (formerly Moore Square) Transit Station Renovation

No video is attached to this one as this line item was in the consent agenda and approved during the council meeting without discussion. From the agenda:

Bids were opened for the GoRaleigh (formerly Moore Square) Transit Station Renovation Project December 3, 2015. The GoRaleigh Transit Station project will provide a comprehensive renovation to the Downtown Raleigh Transit Transfer Facility. Improvements will include but are not limited to new restrooms, crew quarters, northern stairwell, elevator, and ticket/information office. The facility will have enhanced passenger waiting areas and advanced technologies for customer convenience, such as Wi-Fi-access and real-time arrival and departure information. American South General Contractors Company submitted the lowest responsive bid of $9,560,000; the proposed award contains the addition of five alternates with a final proposed bid award of $9,671,000. American South General Contractors Company submitted the lowest base bid and remained the lowest bidder when factoring the alternate options. American South Contractors Company proposes to utilize 9.9 percent Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) and 15.5 percent Small Disadvantage Minority and Women Owen Business (SDMWOB) firms. The Raleigh Transit Authority unanimously recommended this bid award during the December 10,2015 meeting.

I missed the renaming of the Moore Square Transit Station to the GoRaleigh Transit Station. I’m not surprised as the new branding is being pushed pretty hard throughout the system.

The overhaul of this station will be pretty extensive and could start this year. For more, here are two links for you as well as a rendering of the completed station below:

Reading Through the 2015 Downtown Hotel Market Study

Raleigh Marriott City Center

In December 2014, the city started the process on a downtown hotels feasibility study. These efforts were to understand the Raleigh hotel market better and determine the benefits of going after another large hotel in the downtown area in order to support much larger conventions than we have today.

It has been widely talked about how lacking downtown Raleigh is with respect to the quantity of hotel rooms there are but the study would take this conversation one step further. Is another hotel the size of the Marriott, for example, really needed and if built how would it perform?

The results of the study are posted here and I’d like to go through it.

Introduction

The study starts off by saying that the Raleigh hotel market is at a record high this year, recovering from and surpassing prerecession levels now at a 73% occupancy rate. Downtown, including nearby, hotels are working with an average $135 daily room rate. The business community are our biggest visitors, making up 46% of the demand. The Marriott is currently leading with per room revenue at $108 each and the Hampton Inn has the highest occupancy rate.

In terms of supporting the convention center, the Hampton Inn, Marriott, and Sheraton are the biggest supporters. The Holiday Inn, formerly Clarion, was the weakest but the report suggests that the recent change should help improve that.

2015 Downtown Hotel Study

The report breaks down the current hotel demand into three main categories:

The market benefits from a healthy mix of demand sources. Commercial travelers make up nearly half of all room night demand. Local businesses such as Citrix, Red Hat and PNC Bank drive much of this demand. The Raleigh Convention Center and hotels with function space attract meeting and group business, which makes up nearly one-third of occupied room nights. Leisure demand drives business on weekends and holidays.

That split comes down to 46% commercial, 32% meeting and group, and 22% leisure.

Seasonal demand does fluctuate with Spring and Fall being strongest, a dip in the summer, and the lowest hotel demand is in December and January. During the week, Tuesdays and Wednesdays are strongest because of that large commercial demand. After that, the leisure visitors are filling rooms on Friday and Saturday. Not surprisingly, Sunday is the lowest.

2015 Downtown Hotel Study

2015 Downtown Hotel Study

Insights From Event Planners

A part of the report analyzes responses from a survey that was taken by event planners. 116 responses from planners in and out of North Carolina were put together to bring us the following messages:

  • An inadequate hotel package is the greatest obstacle to attracting convention events.
  • Specifically, planners note the lack of hotels within walking distance to the RCC.
  • Event planners have a favorable view of Raleigh as an event destination. They like downtown dining and retail amenities and natural beauty.
  • The majority of planners prefer to host an event in downtown Raleigh in a full-service property with an upscale or upper-midscale brand.
  • Booking hotel rooms within walking distance to the RCC is important to event planners.

From the survey responses, some strengths and weaknesses were extracted. Our two biggest strengths were the amenities of downtown and the ease of access while our biggest weaknesses were due to inadequate hotel packages and limited air service.

2015 Downtown Hotel Study

2015 Downtown Hotel Study

2015 Downtown Hotel Study

The air service weakness, while being the second biggest, is still far behind the hotel package weakness so looks like this one needs to be addressed. The others are low enough to the point where we maintain them at those levels or better.

It looks like we’re also losing bookings due to the amount of rooms in one building. We don’t have a hotel where one can book a large block to support an event. With the Marriott being the biggest at 400 rooms, if this data point increases over time that might justify a hotel with more rooms in one location in the future.

Walking distance hotels are also very important with two-thirds saying it is a must.

2015 Downtown Hotel Study

From an event planners point of view, it looks like we have some work to do.

2015 Downtown Hotel Study

Market Outlook
The Market Outlook section focuses on upcoming projects that will provide a new supply of hotel rooms. About 750 new rooms are projected to be in Raleigh by 2018.

In downtown, we can look to this blog and elsewhere for news of projected hotel projects.

I’m getting a sense from this report that a couple of factors are tightly coupled. Occupancy rates will fall if we are building faster than demand which will cause the prices to drop. (ahem, and revenue) However, at this point, it seems that a larger hotel (400+ rooms) than we have available today is what is needed. It also needs to be near the convention center.

The report assumes that the planned 750 rooms through 2018 are going to be built and shows us what the occupancy rates would look like if we added an additional 400-room hotel to the market.

2015 Downtown Hotel Study

In 2020, we would see a higher occupancy rate in Raleigh with a 400-room hotel versus not having it or even getting something as big as a 1000-room hotel. It looks like a balancing act here for sure.

To get a hotel of this nature, public incentives could be looked at by the city. These include tax incentives, federal programs, infrastructure investments, or even straight cash. The report lists out what Durham has done in their downtown including $1.2 million from the city and county for The Durham Hotel and $1.3 million from the City of Durham for the Residence Inn.

The report then ends with some projected impact statements about what a new, 400-room hotel would do to the convention center. It would cause 31,000 new room nights per year, would result in an additional 30 events per year and an additional 51,000 attendees.

Wrap up

What I’m seeing here is that from a hotel market growth point of view we’re doing just fine. Hotels are being built in downtown as well as around the city. These are 100 to 200 room hotels that are considered limited service or boutique.

However, another way to look at this is how that hotel growth in Raleigh is supporting our convention center. It is likely that it will not and according to the projections, the convention center has plateaued versus seeing steady growth year-after-year. If Raleigh wants to compete in the convention business we’ll have to seriously consider adjacent, larger hotel development. (larger being the key word)

The report also makes some interesting statements about impediments to downtown hotel development:

  • “The primary barriers to development of full-service hotels are land assembly, overall development costs, and relatively weak average daily room rates for a downtown market.”
  • “The need for structured parking in a downtown hotel development increases costs and places downtown sites at disadvantage relative to suburban locations. The City should consider revision to its parking ordinance to allow for fewer spaces per room in downtown hotels”

I really like that second one. Why is our development code saying that a downtown hotel needs to have one parking space per room when almost half those staying are here for business? They most likely came in to the airport, got a cab into downtown, and can be perfectly fine without a car. This needs to be rethought, among other things.

Now, me personally, am wary about Raleigh’s plans to grow the convention business. Convention-dominated downtowns are pretty stale and lack the diversity of uses that I would like to see here at home. The convention business is also a pretty crowded one, with a huge list of competitors out there.

I would really like to see us find other ways to make the convention center more attractive versus just following the standard downtown convention playbook that all other cities are reading. What impact would a premier downtown museum, Dix park, or a hip shopping destination bring to the table?

It’ll be interesting to see where the city goes from here.

Municipography, Outdoor Seating, Wilmington Street Hotel, Moore Square, and Stone’s Warehouse

Municipography is a summary of current issues going through the Raleigh City Council and other municipal departments in the city. The point is to try to deliver any video, photos, and text associated with the discussions happening at City Hall or elsewhere. Since this is a downtown Raleigh blog, the focus is on the center of the city.

I recommend email readers click through to the website to see the embedded video.

I need to think of better titles for these posts.

Lots of downtown Raleigh related items were on this week’s council agenda. I don’t see the video for the daytime session on the city’s website so no video will accompany some of the sections today. They said they were experiencing some technical difficulties that day so perhaps that is why.

Either way, let’s recap.

Outdoor Seating
The hottest topic of the week was the discussion around PUPS, Private Use of Public Space. I’ve covered this before, even sent a letter to city council, but this week the council has changed the hours of operations of our outdoor seating. This is a city-wide ordinance change by the way.

Outdoor seating now has to be closed at midnight Sunday-Thursday, 1am Friday and Saturday nights. To be clear, this only affects outdoor seating that takes place on public property, basically sidewalks. Private outdoor seating is unaffected.

Affected downtown businesses fought this as some of them depend on the sidewalk space for a higher quantity of customers. Reducing their capacity earlier means less dollars. Others against the change claim that we’re biting into our economic success.

Those for the changes claim that downtown is not vibrant and the rowdy bar scene is a burden. It boils down to nearby residents who’ve complained about noise and the inability to get adequate sleep.

My thoughts, in short, are that the reduction in hours are unlikely to do anything while hurting businesses. No one wins, only people lose. The market for bars is thriving. That’s not the problem. The problem is the lack of diversity in downtown business. Opening a bar, clearly, is the most profitable, least risky business right now in downtown Raleigh. How can we make other services and retail more attractive? We don’t have any leadership on this issue currently and I’m disappointed that the Downtown Raleigh Alliance was not an active leader in this debate.

Wilmington Street Hotel

The rezoning request for the proposed 12-story hotel at the corner of Wilmington and Lenoir Streets was approved. From the agenda:

A hearing to receive a request of the Trustees of the General Baptist Convention of North Carolina and Derrick L. and Heather Z. Scales to rezone approximately 0.51 acres from Neighborhood Business with Downtown Overlay and Historic Overlay District-General (NB w/DOD & HOD-G) to Downtown Mixed Use – 12 stories – Urban General – Conditional Use (DX-12-UG-CU). The property is located on the southeast quadrant of the intersection of S. Wilmington and E. Lenoir Street and extends eastward on the south side of E. Lenoir Street.

To catch up on this project, read 12-Story Hotel Planned for Wilmington Street Moves Forward.

Moore Square
The Moore Square redesign plan is moving forward. From the agenda:

Staff seeks authorization to proceed with the second phase of the Moore Square improvement project which generally includes master plan adjustment and development of a preliminary schematic design process for the period of August through December, 2015. This phase will also include regulatory meetings with the Department of Administration, the Raleigh Historic Development Commission and the State Historic Preservation Office. Schematic design will be presented to the public through an open
house; to the Parks, Recreation, and Greenways Advisory Board; and to the City Council for final approval in December.

This item was approved and that means that the redesign moves into Phase 2, schematic design. As a note, I’m on the Moore Square Public Leadership Group for this project so will report here after the next meeting when some work on design is released.

Stone’s Warehouse

If the embedded video doesn’t show for you, click here.

The sale of Stone’s Warehouse was approved. Transfer Company will be buying the site for $2.02 million. Plans for the space include a food entrepreneur incubator as well as a general store and community hall. Market-rate townhomes will be built as well as another building for additional food business space.

Catch up on Stone’s Warehouse here.

12-Story Hotel Planned for Wilmington Street Moves Forward

The Baptist Church Convention Headquarters on Wilmington Street.

The Baptist Church Convention Headquarters on Wilmington Street.

Back in January, we had several key rezoning requests (301 Hillsborough, Kane’s The Dillon among the others) come through the city and we’ve been watching them work their way through the system.

This week, the Raleigh Planning Commission approved the rezoning for a hotel that will go at the corner of Wilmington and Lenoir Streets. The rezoning is to allow them to build as high as 12 stories or around 146 feet.

Below is the video of the discussion. If you can’t see the embedded video, go here and jump to 59:00.

The controversy here is that the rezoning takes place within the Prince Hall Historic District and is inconsistent with numerous parts of the comprehensive plan. There are some that are also worried that a precedent may be set by approving this rezoning. There is also plenty of available land nearby that is outside of the historic district so why must this take place on this specific site, some argued.

First, a little bit about the site. Here is a snippet of a map of the Prince Hall District that includes the potential hotel site.

Prince Hall Historic District

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Going from left to right (west to east) starting at the corner of Lenoir and Wilmington, we have the Baptist Convention Headquarters building, their parking lot and two historic houses. The next property is the driveway exit to the McDonald’s, which is mainly located on the southern half of this block.

The main argument, among others, for the rezoning is that the two houses are kind of “stranded” here around the activity of the McDonald’s and their parking/driveway. There’s little space around the houses and it is very difficult to make a case for renovation or saving these houses.

One of the conditions on the rezoning is that the developer will work with a contractor to move the houses more into the historic district as available land does exist for them. I think this is a good move as the houses could see new life when placed closer to the neighborhood compared to being alone here along Lenoir Street, surrounded by a fast food restaurant and other houses that are owned by Shaw University.

Historic houses along Lenoir Street could be moved.

Historic houses along Lenoir Street could be moved.

The Central CAC, members of the Baptist Convention, and owners of the historic houses were all in favor of this rezoning as well.

The rezoning passed with a 5-3 vote and will now go to city council for a final approval. That should take place in July.