Five-story hotel proposed in downtown Waynesville

Oct. 5—Developers have submitted preliminary plans to build a 75-room boutique hotel in downtown Waynesville one block from Main Street.

Plans call for a five-story hotel on a vacant lot on Depot Street across from the historic courthouse.

The hotel will be a milestone for downtown Waynesville as its first and only hotel. It will mean more customers for shops and restaurants and add to downtown's growing nightlife scene.

The infill development will also improve the sense of continuity between downtown and Frog Level, adding to the steady march of new businesses along Depot Street.

The developer, Parks Hospitality Group out of Raleigh, has a suite of hotel properties in three states, including two Hilton-branded hotels in downtown Asheville, one of which has a rooftop bar. The Waynesville hotel would be under the Marriott brand, according to preliminary plans submitted to the Waynesville development office.

"Even though it's Marriott, it's not going to scream corporate but would be a smaller boutique hotel that fits with Waynesville's character," said Town Planner Olga Grooman.

Developers have not yet gone through the official town permitting process. However, they met with development officials in August to share their plans and map out the steps required for approval, according to Grooman.

The project must go before the Waynesville planning board, which will include a public hearing. Prior to the public hearing, developers are required to hold a community meeting to present their plans to the public — which is a new requirement in Waynesville that aims to iron out concerns of neighboring property owners prior to the public hearing stage.

Developers did not return messages seeking comment for this article.

Schematics presented to the town during the preliminary meeting included an exterior rendering of the building and floor plans. Those plans show:

—The hotel will be five stories and 60-feet tall.

—The main entrance will be off Montgomery Street, with a pull-up unloading area for guests.

—The building will directly abut the sidewalk along Depot Street.

—The ground floor will include two leased spaces for retail or restaurants, one facing Depot Street and one facing Montgomery.

—The majority of rooms will be single kings, with some double queens.

What about parking?

The hotel footprint will fill most of the 0.4-acre acre parcel, leaving no room for onsite parking. Town zoning requires hotels to provide a minimum of one parking space per room, which means the developer had to come up with 75 parking spaces somewhere.

The developers approached the county about leasing spaces in the parking deck around the corner to fulfill the parking requirement. The parking deck, which is free to the public, was built in the early 2000s to serve the new justice center. The seven-story parking deck is underused, however, and is often mostly empty.

The developer will pay the county $26,250 annually to lease 75 spots in the parking deck for the first 10 years. The cost would go up to $30,000 a year for the next 10 years.

The leased parking spaces would be "undesignated," meaning that hotel patrons won't have a dedicated area in the parking deck reserved for them.

There is nothing stopping hotel guests from parking elsewhere downtown, however. Grooman said the town can't prevent hotel guests from taking up other downtown parking spots.

"If parking is public, it's public. Anybody who comes to Waynesville for any purpose can use public parking," Grooman said. "But the idea is they have to provide the required number of parking spots."

The free Miller Street parking lot is only half a block from the hotel and a level walk — as opposed to trekking two blocks downhill and around the corner to the parking deck. Concerns over hotel guests monopolizing downtown parking could be mitigated by valet parking, which developers mentioned as an option.

"They said they were strongly considering the idea of valet-only parking," Grooman said.

County commissioners unanimously approved a lease for 75 spaces in the parking deck at their meeting on Monday, although Commissioner Kirk Kirkpatrick abstained from voting as he is representing the seller of the property in his capacity as a real estate attorney.

David Francis, the county's community and economic development director, told commissioners the company has a successful track record in building and operating hotels. He noted that one of its hotels in Asheville has a rooftop bar — something that would be a welcome addition in Waynesville.

The developers verbally mentioned the idea of having a rooftop bar during discussions with town development officials, according to Grooman, but the preliminary plans don't currently show that.

Site history

The parcel was formerly home to the Pancake House, which closed following a fire in the 1990s. The building sat vacant for more than a decade before finally being torn down. The 0.4-acre site has been an eyesore for downtown ever since, with a large pit on where the foundation once stood.

Haywood County bought the vacant property in 2000 for $220,000 due to its useful proximity to the historic courthouse, and it briefly housed overflow county offices and parking for county employees. The county then deeded it to the town in the early 2000s as part of negotiations over where the new justice center would be sited.

The county was reluctant to keep the justice center downtown due to parking concerns. The town gave the county $2.5 million to help build the $4 million parking deck to resolve the concern, and in exchange, the county deeded the old Pancake House property to the town.

The town then sold the property in 2007 for $370,000 to David Villari, a second-home owner from Florida. The developer has not yet closed on the purchase from Villari.

While the town is currently under a sewer moratorium for new sewer hook-ups due to its aging sewer plant, the hotel has been cleared for sewer capacity because it will be on the site of a pre-existing sewer tap, Grooman said.

Reporter Vicki Hyatt contributed to this story.