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Hotel Developer Ready To Move Forward In Carolina Beach

Managing Editor

CAROLINA BEACH - A new hotel project is another step closer to building on property located at the northern end of the Carolina Beach Boardwalk.
Blanchard & Calhoun Commercial, a real estate development and commercial brokerage firm in Augusta, Georgia, sent a letter to the Town Council on Thursday May 16.
Vic Mills - Chief Executive Officer of Blanchard and Calhoun Commercial Corporation - wrote to the Council, "We want to thank you again for helping us “think outside the box” to develop a win-win situation for developing a new Hotel in Carolina Beach. Since our last meeting, we have been working diligently with our architectural team to develop a site plan and building elevations based on the new concept. We hope to have the site plan and related information in sufficient form to submit for site plan approval possibly next week."
Mills explained, "John Lee, who you have met and heads this project for our company, is in contact with your planning and zoning and your engineering staff to make certain we meet the delivery deadlines to be included on the agenda for the appropriate meeting. While we fully understand that, as Mayor and single Council person, you cannot commit the town to any agreement without formal approval. However, we do need to set forth our understanding as to what will be proposed to council for approval."
Mills explained, "This is important as it guides everything that we do relative to our site planning, building design, cost estimates, financing, etc., etc. If we have misunderstood or misinterpreted the information, it is extremely important that we know upfront so that we are not moving along the wrong path."
Mills explained they have now paid First Bank and should have good title.
Earlier this year Mayor Bob Lewis said North Carolina based First Bank had a judgment against the former developer who planned to build a Hilton Garden Inn hotel project on the same vacant property on the oceanfront at Harper Avenue on the northern end of the Boardwalk. Last year the Town Council voted to close a portion of Carolina Beach Avenue North to facilitate the new owners hotel project for a Hampton Inn and Suites.
Lewis would not go into details but said First Bank had a judgment against the previous development company  - Seaview Properties LLC - and was seeking compensation for the roadway previously owned by the former developer to the tune of approximately $465,000.
Mills wrote last week that, "David Crawford (our Attorney) working with the towns attorney will immediately complete the transfer of real estate for the roadway, as we have now paid First Bank and should have good title."
He explained, "Subject to Councils approval, the town will lease 48 parking spaces on the parcel highlighted in yellow attached to our hotel entity for $1 per year in perpetuity for so long the hotel operates on the site. The lease will provide the city the right to terminate the lease should the hotel cease operations for an extended period."
Mills explained, "The lease would require that the hotel build an attractive “knee wall” of the same materials utilized for the exterior of the hotel in the same architectural style and maintain the area, installing a gate for entrance and exit, which will clearly identify the parking area to be used for the hotel."
Mills explained, "As the Developer of the Hotel, we will be responsible for providing modifications to the towns existing parking lot (shown in green on the attached) to include removing and reinstalling curbs, landscape areas, etc. in order to revise the parking area to be consistent with the plans provided by Rob Ponder."
The map attached to the letter shows the Town's existing public parking lots behind the Bank of America and McDonald's properties between Harper Avenue and Carl Winner Street at the Town's Municipal Marina.
The 48 parking spaces required by the developer are located in the existing public parking lot closest to Harper Avenue in the southern section of the lot.
Mills explained, "Under this arrangement the number of parking spaces within the remaining town facility (the existing lot minus those leased above) will be increased from 97 to 118. We will also be responsible for resurfacing any areas that were damaged as part of the redesign or reconstruction and will provide a skim coat for the entire lot and will restripe to reflect the new parking plan."
He explained, "We also agree to install gravel on an existing unpaved parcel owned by the town so as to provide 48 new parking spaces" and, "The Town will deed the small area highlighted in yellow on the attachment to us in consideration for our agreeing to remove the existing landscaping and improve the pedestrian walkway to the south of our planned hotel on the existing town property highlighted in pink. Our refurbishment of this walkway will include relandscaping and adding certain fixtures such as park benches, attractive lighting, etc. so as to cause the access to the beach along this walkway to be consistent with the quality of the hotel."
That highlighted area includes a portion of the concrete boardwalk pedestrian area running from the end of Harper Avenue to the beachfront.
Mills explained, "Gentlemen, we would appreciate you looking over this information and acknowledge that this, subject to Council approval, will be the direction we will move to complete this transaction so as to allow us to promptly begin the construction of the hotel. Again, we understand that you efforts have been solely to assist in developing a framework for moving forward and you have in no way committed the town until such time as a formal agreement based on these terms are agreed to in writing and approved by the town under its normal process."
He explained, "This simply lets us move forward in continuing to spend time and money to design our hotel, parking areas, site plans, etc. based on this understanding. We should have more detailed drawings, site plans, etc. available during June. We are extremely excited for the possibilities of formally announcing our hotel with the town, and starting our site work."
Mills wrote, "This is particularly important given that we have certain permits that will be expiring later this summer and we need to have initiated site work. Please give me a call or email after you have had a chance to look over this information to confirm
its accuracy or make any required corrections. Given your concurrence, we will put everything into overdrive to move forward. Again, we appreciate your “thinking outside the box” and working with us to try to put together a win-win for Carolina Beach and our Hotel."
In 2007 the Town Council approved a project to construct a high-rise oceanfront 191 room Hilton Garden Inn on the north end of the Boardwalk at Harper Avenue and Carolina Beach Avenue North.
That project never materialized and since that time has remained vacant serving only as a sand lot providing parking during the summer seasons.
In 2011 the property was purchased out of foreclosure by Blanchard & Calhoun Commercial, a real estate development and commercial brokerage firm in Augusta, Georgia.
In March of last year, the Council voted to close 170' feet of right-of-way at Carolina Beach Avenue North and Harper Avenue.
That portion of the road was previously closed in 2007 for the previous Hilton project, but when that project didn't materialize, the Town used a condemnation process to take the right-of-way back.
On Wednesday May 22, Mayor Bob Lewis responded to a citizen inquiry and stated, "This is the position of the Hotel developer who is asking for the space. In reality the hotel would redo our town parking areas and open up an additional 23 spaces which means we would be exchanging 25 spaces in total.  The developed also offered to clear and install a parking lot on land owned by the town between Canal and Carolina Beach Ave [North]. We are proposing a different lease for the spaces.  My offer to the developer is for the hotel chain to pay an annual lease payment to the town that generates the net revenue for 48 parking spaces. This would be the net revenue the town receives from an a space today."