Wednesday, October 27, 2021

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Graham, NC 27253
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Mebane hotel plan comes back to life – and larger than before

Iowa developer proposes a unique, dual branding model for 103-room hotel along interstate near Lowe’s Home Improvement

A dormant plan for two hotels and an office building on a lot near Lowe’s Home Improvement showed new signs of life this week, as the developer of the project asked for a revision of previously-approved plans in order to allow for a larger hotel on the property.

In 2019, the city council agreed to the developer’s plans for a phased construction of two hotels and an office building on the approximately 7-acre site which fronts onto I-85/40.  The 10,000-square-foot office building would be divided 50-50 between office and retail space, according to the original, 2019 approval.

Rad Pandit of Bettendorf, Iowa had originally approached the city in 2019 about building a Hawthorn Suites hotel with 80 rooms on the site.

In the intervening years of the COVID-19 pandemic, the project was dormant, but the developer is now asking for a 29 percent expansion in the number of rooms – to 103 – and with somewhat fewer parking spaces.  Tim Smith of Summit Engineering presented the developer’s request.

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Smith conveyed that the developer’s experience is that “there is never 100 percent occupancy in a hotel, particularly where there are two side-by-side and that shared parking under those conditions is acceptable.”

The proposed hotel offers a new format, a hybrid of two hotel brands in the same structure, both a Hawthorn Suites and also a LaQuinta Hotel.

A second hotel, initially described in 2019 as a Wyndham Hotel with 80 rooms, would be built later and was not affected by Monday night’s request or discussion.

The parking, then and now, is also shared with the adjacent office building planned for the site.  Discussion focused on the likelihood that, depending on the future retail or office tenants of the retail building, parking spaces for retail would be greater during the day, while parking for the hotel would be greater overnight.

The number of parking spaces would number 210 under the developer’s proposal, rather than the 229 required by Mebane’s existing zoning requirements.

However, Lori Oakley, a planning board member who also serves as the planning director in Person County, told fellow board members that her research had revealed that Mebane’s parking requirements are more stringent than several nearby jurisdictions.

She noted, for instance, that Person County, Graham, Hillsborough, and Burlington all base their parking requirements for a hotel on one space per rental unit or less – a calculation by which the new configuration would be allowed in those jurisdictions.

However, it is only by virtue of Mebane’s higher calculation formula – of requiring 1.25 spaces per rental unit, or room – that the parking falls short.

Planning board members ultimately voted unanimously to recommend the revised plan for expanded hotel occupancy to the city council, which will consider the issue at its November 1 meeting.

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