Developer touts downtown hotel project


Staff Writer

Thursday, June 27, 2019

The developer of a planned multimillion dollar hotel and parking garage in downtown Rocky Mount said on Tuesday he does not understand why anyone would not be supportive of the revitalization effort.

David Hunt, president of Hunt Services in Tennessee, said he would not be in Rocky Mount ready to build a Marriott if he did not believe in the project.

“Why would anyone not want to invest in downtown Rocky Mount?” Hunt asked during a mid-morning public information and cheerleading session at City Hall.

Hunt said he sees the potential in downtown that fellow developers have missed because when they come to Rocky Mount, they stop at Interstate 95.

He said the Event Center is amazing and the City Council had forethought in creating an infrastructure capable of handling much more development.

The council voted 4-3 on Monday to move forward with plans for the city to pay $18 million for the project with private investors putting up around $30 million. The project’s economic impact is projected to be around $100 million.

“That’s like $18 for $100,” Hunt said. “If you were offered that deal, you’d take it.”

Hunt said he has been back to Rocky Mount a dozen times for the earlier stages of the project. Given all the political commotion in the city, Hunt never would have returned after the first visit if he had not felt the potential synergy.

“I’m just priming the pump,” Hunt said.

The plan calls for a 107-room Marriott Fairfield Inn and Springhill Suites, two parking garages with a total of 700 spaces, residential condominiums and 20,000 square feet of retail space, said Ted Cole of Davenport and Company, a financial consulting firm.

City Manager Rochelle Small-Toney stressed the project is in the draft stage and still requires approval of the Local Government Commission.

“We still have a way to go, but this is a great chance to revitalize downtown,” Small-Toney said.

She asked the audience whether they thought Marriott would risk its brand name if it did not think downtown Rocky Mount was worth it.

Rocky Mount Chamber of Commerce President David Farris said the Chamber has not taken an official stance on the project, but economic development is what the Chamber is all about.

The shuttering of textile mills followed by Hurricane Floyd’s destruction dealt the city a powerful one-two punch in the 1990s, but the city finally is recovering, Ferris said.

“Rocky Mount hasn’t seen this type of development in 50 years,” Ferris said of the many successful projects around the city.

The downtown hotel project will mean 700 local jobs during its construction phase, $1 million in tax revenue and $100 million in financial impact, said Alan O’Connell of Novogradac Consulting.

The Draft Development and Cooperation Agreement and other information presented at the meeting is available on the city’s website. The meeting will be aired on TV19 and posted to YouTube.

Anyone can email questions about the project to downtowndevelopment@rockymountnc.gov.

All the questions and answers eventually will be available on the city’s website, Small-Toney said.