City to consider $1.3 million for McPherson site hotel

jwise@newsobserver.comAugust 5, 2013 

RALEIGH

Three months after the Durham County commissioners gave Concord Hospitality $400,000 to build a hotel near Duke East Campus, the city is preparing to kick in $1.3 million.

The conditional incentives support a long-pending project at the former McPherson Hospital site on West Main Street, between Watts Street and Buchanan Boulevard, which incorporates the 1926 hospital building.

In a memo to City Council members, Economic and Workforce Development Director Kevin Dick describes Concord’s plan as “a 143-room upscale select service Residence Inn by Marriott,” with a total capital investment of $29.5 million.

Incentive payments would be spread over eight years, starting only after the building is finished.

Concord has to start construction by Jan. 1, 2014, and receive an occupancy permit by June 30, 2015.

The proposed contract specifies elements of the historic hospital to be preserved in the finished hotel, including the facade facing Main Street and the exterior side walls, roof, widow’s walk and balcony.

The three-story, Colonial Revival hospital has been vacant since 2004.

According to Dick’s memo, taxes generated by the Residence Inn would repay the incentive and leave the city with a net revenue gain of $446,634 over the eight years, and create 31 new full-time jobs – including eight salaried positions.

Concord Hospitality, a Raleigh company, bought the hospital building and the 1.6-acre site it sits on in September 2006, after Durham developer Lou Goetz had proposed a hotel on the property.

At first, it proposed a Courtyard by Marriott and began talks with residents of the adjacent Trinity Park neighborhood.

In 2008, Concord demolished two wings added to the original building in the 1940s and 1960s.

But with the national economy collapsing, the central building remained vacant, deteriorating into a neighborhood eyesore and a haven for squatters.

In 2010, Preservation Durham listed it as a “Property in Peril,” ranking it one of “the indispensable elements of Durham’s heritage.”

Later that year, Concord sought to demolish the old hospital, but quickly backtracked in the face of neighbors’ and preservationists’ backlash.

Tho community was excited when Concord applied for and received a necessary use permit for its hotel in 2011, but the old McPherson has remained boarded up and run down in an idle construction site while the company settled its plans.

After finishing construction drawings in 2012, Concord started negotiating for city and county incentives. Durham County commissioners approved a grant in May.

The proposed city incentive is on the City Council’s work session agenda Thursday, with a public hearing and vote likely at the council’s Aug. 19 regular meeting.

Concord’s property was the site of Durham’s first hospital, Watts Hospital, which opened in 1895. Watts moved to a larger campus on Broad Street – now the N.C. School of Science and Mathematics – in 1911. In 1925, Dr. Samuel D. McPherson Sr. bought the former Watts property to build a hospital for treating eye, ear, nose and throat disorders.

According to a McPherson family memoir, by the 1960s the hospital was treating 50,000 patients a year.

After Dr. Samuel D. McPherson Jr. retired from practice in 1992, the name changed to N.C. Eye and Ear, later N.C. Specialty Hospital.

Wise: 919-641-5895

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