The location of what had been a longtime downtown motor lodge and restaurant is under contract.

Motorists and pedestrians going past the former Carleton House in the 200 block of North Church Street may have noticed the change in the “for sale” sign, indicating the seller and a purchaser have been in the process of reaching a deal.

Further specifics about the latest about the former Carleton House site were not immediately available when the Telegram reached John Jesso, who is a broker with the commercial real estate part of Chambliss & Rabil, which has the property listed.

The Telegram in late September 2019 reported real estate investor Jesse Gerstl and his partners had decided not to restore the former Carleton House site and had placed the location on the market.

Mayor Sandy Roberson told the Telegram he saw the under contract sign at the former Carleton House site.

“And I consider that to be a pivotal and key component to that downtown redevelopment because that’s kind of the place where, if you will, the Mill Village development meets downtown,” Roberson said.

Roberson said that he believes to have a healthy spot there with the Rocky Mount Event Center roughly a minute away by vehicle will create the kind of flow that the city needs to be able to create the traffic to be able to make business successful.

Rocky Mount Area Chamber of Commerce President and CEO David Farris and his team are watching the former Carleton House site with much interest and elation.

“I’m not at liberty to say who the company is, but we are really excited about it and excited about the prospects of it,” Farris told the Telegram.

Farris made clear that while he has not seen the documents and the plan, his understanding is that a person is interested in transforming the former Carleton House site back into a lodging place.

“It’s going to be an exciting venue, once again, like it was in its prime,” Farris said.

The Carleton House opened in 1961 at a cost of about $500,000 with 45 units.

The Carleton House remained in business until closing in 2003 and next served for a time as student housing for N.C. Wesleyan College.

In 2011, a group opened the location as the Four Seasons Restaurant and Conference Center, but that business closed roughly four years later.

Farris spoke of the Carleton House’s glory days, particularly after the restaurant was redone.

“You had lines going in there for lunch and Sunday dinner — and it was fabulous. The food there was incredible,” Farris said.

“It was just a great place to enjoy — and you would recommend friends coming into Rocky Mount to stay there,” Farris said. “And you would take people to lunch or dinner or breakfast there.

“It was a really popular, popular place,” Farris said.

Asked whether he believes the former Carleton House site can be a popular place again, Farris said, “Absolutely. There’s no doubt in my mind about that.”

Additionally, Farris said he believes a lodging place possibly would prompt the opening of more establishments and restaurants.

Farris was quick to cite the saying, “Activity breeds activity.”

A most visible instance of activity downtown is along the 100 block of Southeast Main Street, which is the site of developer Troy Davis’ future Davis Lofts.

Davis recently provided a tour of what is going to be residential and commercial spaces in three transformed side-by-side buildings.

The Telegram covered the tour and later published a story.

Just before Davis started to show the progress of the project, the Telegram asked him about whether he plans to do any other projects downtown and if so, what and where.

With a smile and a hearty laugh, Davis said, “I don’t know if I should discuss that right now.”

“I have two other sites on my agenda, but I haven’t closed on either just yet, but both are under contract,” Davis said.

Davis declined to discuss whether he and the former Carleton House site are one and the same, but he did call the two sites on his agenda “massive.”

The Telegram reported in September 2019 that Gerstl said he and his team acquired the Carleton House site a bit more than a year prior.

The plan had been to have lodging, plus a restaurant with attached event space.

Gerstl told the Telegram for the story published in September 2019 that there were lots of reasons he and his fellow investors decided not to proceed.

Gerstl told the Telegram he believed the main reason was that he and his fellow investors had a lot of other projects going on downtown and added “this was a very big project and the timing wasn’t really right.”

The property has been listed online with a price of $1.55 million.