Developers tout downtown project
BY WILLIAM F. WEST
Friday, July 12, 2019
The Central City Revitalization Panel heard from a consultant to the city about details of the proposed hotel, residential complex and parking garage adjacent to the Rocky Mount Event Center.
On Thursday morning at City Hall, Bridget Chisholm, managing partner of BWC Consulting, spent about 15 minutes giving an update, which was followed by about 40 minutes of questions and discussion.
Panel Chairman Garland Jones said he suggested BWC Consulting representatives come in because he does not take his information from newspapers and likes to have public forums where people are talking.
Developer David Hunt of Jackson, Tenn., wants to build a mixed-use development, comprised of a 109-room SpringHill Suites by Marriott with a 700-space parking garage, 20,000 square feet of retail space and 60 mixed-income but quality residential units.
During Thursday’s meeting, Chisholm showed that the Douglas Block census tract, where the project would be located, is a distressed area with a poverty rate of 24.1 percent and an unemployment rate of 11.1 percent.
Chisholm emphasized Hunt is proposing to spend about $33 million on the project.
Chisholm said the garage is proposed to cost about $17 million with Hunt to build the structure, to be leased to him, but with the city to receive any profits. After 20 years the garage will be turned over to the city.
As for the financial benefits, Chisholm showed there will be 430 direct jobs and 287 indirect or induced jobs created during construction. She also showed there will be 194 total permanent jobs and 127 indirect or induced jobs created after construction.
Overall, Chisholm emphasized there will be an about $120 million one-time and ongoing effect.
Chisholm said Hunt’s project being anchored by a Tier 1 lodging establishment will mean employees working at a higher pay grade, which in turn will start changing Rocky Mount’s socioeconomic makeup.
Chisholm also said Hunt’s project means retailers will not have to do front-end work to open for business yet will have the chance to own their spaces.
Chisholm also said the project provides an opportunity for people in mixed households to own or rent residential spaces.
Rocky Mount’s once-bustling central business district is on both sides of the railroad line, with Nash County on the west side and Edgecombe County on the east side. The central business district does not have a hotel.
Chisholm said while a lot of the economic development locally has gone to the Nash County side, the project now provides the opportunity for some of the balance to go to the Edgecombe County side.
Later in her presentation, she said, “You can’t on one hand only want people in Nash County to benefit and not want people in Edgecombe County to benefit.”
She asked, if people in Nash County needed a parking garage, does one think Nash County’s elected officials would have an issue voting for them to have one?
Panel member Tarrick Pittman asked Chisholm whether she is from Rocky Mount. Chisholm said she is from Fayetteville.
Pittman wanted to know where Chisholm is getting what he sees as opinionated feedback to make statements about people in Nash County not wanting a hotel in Edgecombe County.
“I’m just curious,” Pittman said.
“Public comment,” Chisholm said. “I can read. I’m online. I go read the comments. I hear the comments.”
“From social media?” Pittman said.
Chisholm said she has been at City Council meetings and has read the newspaper.
“It comes from various sources — and I’m out in the community,” she said. “I talk to people. So it’s not just an opinion just standing up.”
During Thursday’s meeting, Jones emphasized what he sees as the need for Rocky Mount to start thinking about downtown as a downtown and not an Edgecombe County side and a Nash County side.
Jones emphasized he believes both sides of the railroad line deserve to be developed so the whole concept of the neighborhood starts jelling and Rocky Mount starts becoming a city.
“We’re going to have differences,” Jones said. “Don’t let the differences bother us. We’re planning for a generation to come.”
Panel member and city Councilwoman Chris Miller said she believes it is a red herring to say that people do not want development downtown or on the Edgecombe County side.
“It’s not a matter of where it goes. It’s how it’s funded,” Miller said.
“Right,” panel member Jean Almand Kitchin said.
Miller said hotels are located along Gateway Boulevard on the northwest side of Rocky Mount because private investors put their money at risk.
Jones countered that a private investor is putting his money at risk on the Edgecombe County side.
“So we’re talking about downtown,” Jones said. “And we cannot act as if we don’t understand that the majority of economic development has gone over to the Nash County side. I’m not blind to that.”