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Wednesday, 09 August 2017 07:02

Site walk draws insight, input on proposed hotel

Written by  Lee Sullivan
Trey Akers and hotel group Beacon IMG President Nish Patel (in red shirt), discuss plans for the Hyatt Place hotel to be built on Davidson's Griffith Street with residents on a site walk late last week. Trey Akers and hotel group Beacon IMG President Nish Patel (in red shirt), discuss plans for the Hyatt Place hotel to be built on Davidson's Griffith Street with residents on a site walk late last week. Lee Sullivan

DAVIDSON, N.C. -- Parking spaces and pedestrian safety, along with traffic congestion and tree canopies, were, along with overall aesthetics, among the concerns aired by Davidson residents last week during a town-orchestrated tour of the proposed site of a new hotel.

The Friday morning site walk last week, and a follow-up summary of the project at a Town Hall luncheon, were coordinated by members of the Davidson Planning Department as a way to provide specific details about the development Beacon IMG envisions for the 2.1 acres in the southeast quadrant of the Griffith Street/Davidson Gateway Drive intersection while gathering citizen opinions and questions about all aspects of the proposal.

Evolving plans for the 115-room, four-story Hyatt Place hotel, and a compilation of the comments and suggestions shared by participants at Friday’s events, will be among the materials evaluated at a Davidson Town Board work session on Tuesday, Aug. 22. The project is also scheduled to be the topic of a town board public hearing on Tuesday, Sept. 12, with a final vote on the proposal tentatively set for the Davidson board’s meeting in October.

During Friday’s site walk, led by Senior Planner Trey Akers from Davidson’s planning department staff, placement of the 74,500-square-foot hotel, parking the project would create and eliminate, possible improvements to pedestrian passageways along Griffith Street and the potential impacts — positive and negative — to the area’s overall landscape were just some of the topics discussed.

Around two dozen residents participated in the walk, joined by Akers as well as Nish Patel, president of Beacon IMG; Matthew Kerr of Davidson Commons East Condominium Associates, LLC, owners of the property; Lindsay Laird, planning technician for Davidson; and Cristina Shaul, Davidson’s public information officer.

At the outset, during his introduction, Akers explained the goal for the unusual outing.

“What we want to do is hear questions and concerns, anything you believe should be considered,” he said. “And we’ll be collecting those observations.”

He went on to explain that the nature of the plan, and the type of approval Patel’s company is seeking, gives the town sweeping authority to set standards for the development.

“It is a conditional plan, so the town will have a direct say about what will happen on this site,” he said.

Akers also listed specific changes, including a widened Griffith Street to accommodate on-street parking in front of the new hotel and additional parking spaces at the rear of the hotel connected to existing parking areas around Woodie’s Auto Service, anticipated as part of the development. A mid-block pedestrian walkway across Griffith Street at the entrance to the Spinnaker Cove neighborhood and upgrades at the Griffith Street/Beaty Street intersection incorporated into the Beaty/Sloan/Potts project were also potential improvements tied to the proposed hotel.

While residents taking part in Friday’s site walk expressed interest in the potential road and parking area improvements, their comments focused primarily on the trees and parking areas that will be lost if the development proceeds.

A basketball court-sized stand of mature trees currently serves as a buffer between Griffith Street and the asphalt parking lot where the back half of the hotel would stand.  The current plans would include the removal of those trees to accommodate the hotel, an entrance plaza and 1,500 square feet of ground-floor retail space. The landscaping and buffer criteria set for the development will be designed to replace some of the lost tree canopy, but the appearance of Griffith Street will be altered.

Construction of the hotel would also eliminate some of the special event and overflow parking space used by Community School of Davidson. The school currently has an arrangement with the Condominium Associates firm to use the site for parking. Several CSD parents were among those taking part in Friday’s walk and voiced concerns about CSD parking options if the hotel was built.
And in addressing those issues at the conclusion of the walk, Patel highlighted the difficulty in balancing everyone’s expectations.

“If we push the hotel back on the lot and leave the trees along Griffith Street,” Patel said, “we lose more parking. We wanted it further back originally, but everyone agreed placing it closer to the road was the best option.”
Patel also expressed appreciation at turnout for Friday’s events.

“The town’s citizens are involved, and that’s a good thing,” he said. “We are confident there is demand for more hotel rooms here, but we also know there is strong community interest in what is planned. We want to be responsive to the citizens’ inquiries and concerns and create something that fits the community.”

“It would be easier in another town, I know that, but this is where we want to be,” Patel added. “The process of building something here can be more involved than in other communities, and the process involves this kind of interaction with residents who care about their town. That’s part of it, and a big part of the reason this is the place we would like to build our hotel.”

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