Renovation of downtown hotel to start


Staff Writer

Monday, August 13, 2018

The Rocky Mount Event Center isn’t the only major project in the works for downtown Rocky Mount.

A group of out-of-town investors is pouring in millions of dollars to renovate and turn the former Carleton House Motor Lodge and Restaurant into a 64-room boutique hotel.

Jesse Gerstl, owner and managing partner of LarGerKo Real Estate Investments in Durham, said he and three other partners from California purchased the former Carleton House about seven months ago.

“We’re not changing the footprint of the hotel at all,” Gerstl said. “We aren’t doing any new buildings or new additions to the hotel. We’re keeping it to its original shape and form.”

When finished, the hotel will have 60 regular rooms and four suites, plus a restaurant and event space, Gerstl said. He added the courtyard that used to be parking for the hotel will be enclosed and turned into a pool and outdoor area for hotel guests.

In addition, the former pool’s mechanical room will be transformed into a new lobby, and the entrance to the hotel will be facing the Event Center.

“We’re currently working through architectural plans and hope to start construction in the next few months,” Gerstl said. “We’re eyeing 2019 as the tentative completion and opening date.”

Gerstl said this will be he and his partners first hotel project, but they’ve done several historical renovations of residential and commercial projects in Durham. He said they first came down to downtown Rocky Mount about a year ago after meeting John Jesso, downtown development manager.

“This wasn’t in our original plans, but this property was beautiful and was the right fit,” Gerstl said. “The thing that caught our eye was that it’s a beautiful 1960s motor lodge that’s on the historic registry and it’s actually one of the first examples of a motor lodge in the country. Plenty of people have memories of going to the Carleton House whether it was after church or as a family destination, so the rich history of this property in this town was intriguing.”

The construction of the 165,000-square-foot Event Center also was a major factor in purchasing the dilapidated property.

“The Event Center was definitely key to the hotel project because we felt a hotel was needed to help support the Event Center,” Gerstl said. “We expect and are planning there will be dozens of events every year, and this will provide close locations for families and attendees to stay.”

Gerstl and his partners also have purchased several other buildings and properties in the Five Points area of downtown where they’re investing millions of dollars to restore and renovate those properties into a mix of retail, restaurants and office space. Gerstl said announcements of tenants going into the buildings will be coming in the future.

Gerstl said be believes Rocky Mount — especially downtown Rocky Mount —- has a chance again to be a vibrant and attractive area for businesses.

“We have a lot of hope in downtown redeveloping and growing,” he said. “Once before, there was a lot of money, a lot of wealth and people built some of the most incredible buildings. Unfortunately, a lot of these buildings have been left unoccupied and abandoned for almost 30 years. That’s a shame because of that natural beauty that is downtown Rocky Mount.

“If people are willing to come and businesses are willing to open, downtown could be an incredibly beautiful, busy and center for all walks of life to come and enjoy a beautiful Main Street.”