Planned hotel site on Franklin Street could house offices

tgrubb@newsobserver.comJanuary 21, 2014 

— A Raleigh real estate company wants to offer developers more options for building on the site of a long-planned project at 1609 E. Franklin St.

“We are not building. We will be selling the site,” said Sanjay Mundra, chief executive officer of Coldwell Banker HPW Commercial.

The Town Council will review the concept plan Wednesday and might ask questions but won’t make any decisions at this stage.

Mundra submitted plans to the town last fall for a five-story, 110-room hotel on two combined lots – a total of 1.7 acres – on the northern side of East Franklin Street. The property is located near Chapel Hill Fire Station No. 3 and is zoned residential and for neighborhood commercial use, which allows low-intensity businesses. Hotels need council approval.

Mundra said the plans have changed, based on feedback from the town’s Community Design Commission and neighbors. The final draft being completed now could ask for a shorter building with roughly the same number of rooms, he said.

The proposed footprint is small – 13,146 square feet, or about the size of the Trader Joe’s at The Shops at Eastgate. Mundra said that also could change.

If the plans are approved, HPW Commercial will market the land to a future buyer, with the option of building either a hotel or office building, he said. Depending on the plan, he estimated the project’s cost at $10 million to $16 million.

The Town Council approved Mundra’s special-use permit in 2009 for a two-story office building on the site. The national economic slowdown stopped the work, and a follow-up study later showed a hotel was a bigger need in that area, according to documents filed with the town. The permit has since expired and would have to be renewed.

“As a result, contact was made with several hotel franchises and received a very positive reaction to having one of their brands developed on this site,” Mundra said.

The luxury hotel operators contacted include Hyatt, Hilton and Marriott, he said. He declined to name developers who might be interested.

Roughly 110 parking spaces are proposed for a lot that backs up to Velma Street. A retaining wall, fence and landscaping would separate the parking lot from residential neighbors.

At least one neighbor shared concerns about the plan in an email to the council last week.

Coker Hills resident Shauna Farmer said the hotel, as proposed, would tower over Velma Street homes. Coker Hills and Velma Street residents already see much of the shorter Ballet School building next door over the trees, she said.

The height also could increase nighttime light pollution and look out of place near existing two- and three-story buildings on Franklin Street, she said.

“I and my neighbors recognize the value of this site and realize that there will likely be development there. We will be watching with interest as plans for this property develop and will work to make sure the needs of the neighbors as well as the developer are considered,” Farmer said.

Mundra’s uncle and cousins own The Siena Hotel, roughly a block west on East Franklin Street.

Grubb: 919-932-8746

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