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Developers present vision for hotel, apartment development

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Seacoast Community developer Rick Banning, center, along with Jim Blount, left, presents plans for the property of the former Imperial Tobacco Processing Plant to the City Council Monday night.

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By Ginger Livingston
Staff Writer

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Developers of a proposed boutique hotel and apartments on a former warehouse site said the project will solidify the growth of the center city.

Partners with Seacoast Communities, the project developer, outlined a plan to build a boutique hotel and market-rate apartments on six acres of the former Imperial Tobacco warehouse site.

Assistant City Manager Michael Cowin said the next step is to finalize a letter of intent with the project developers. The goal is to bring the letter to the council either later this month or in November for final approval.

However City Councilwoman Monica Daniels said she hopes the developers meet with the west Greenville community.

“I know you said it’s convenient for ECU and Vidant (Medical Center) but there is a community in between,” Daniels said. “How does this connect to them?”

Councilwoman and Mayor Pro Tem Rose Glover said she wants the hotel to incorporate the history of the community into the finished project, perhaps through photographs.

Greenville resident Jim Blount and his partner Rick Banning outlined two-phase project.

The first phase involves the construction of a 90-115 unit boutique hotel. This will be followed by the construction of market-rate apartments. They did not say what the rate would be, except that it would be based on Pitt County’s current average income of $39,000 and current apartment rates.

The combined cost is an estimated $41 million, Banning said. The group also plans to restore the Imperial Warehouse administrative building as part of a plan for the city to build a public parking/public events space along Clark Street.

Responding to Daniels’ question, Blount said this space would be open to the west Greenville community for activities.

Banning said the administrative building has deteriorated, but the developers are committed to securing state and federal tax credits to repair it and make it available, perhaps to a nonprofit organization or a retail space.

The hotel would have a rooftop lounge. The project should boost center city development, Blount said.

“We add the hotel … you add 80 to 100 visitors per night,” he said.

The apartment complex also would have ground floor retail space. It will be marketed to young professionals, ECU faculty and hospital personnel.

Blount said the apartments would be a selling point to corporations considering relocation, because it shows the city has housing and amenities that attract young professionals.

The goal is to have the contract signed by early 2020 and then finalize the design of the building and secure building permits.

Banning said construction should begin in early 2021. Construction should take 20-22 months, he said. The project should be finished by late 2022, Banning said. The housing project would begin midway through the hotel construction.

The developers were asked asked about the proposed project’s future effect on west Greenville neighborhoods.

Blount said the Imperial site is surrounded by student housing, market-rate units, affordable housing in Nathaniel Village, the G.K. Butterfield Transportation Center and retail space and restaurants.

“It’s a pretty diverse site there,” Blount said. “What we are really missing is something that is going to really drive the young professionals and corporate crowd.”

He said believes the bungalow housing that makes up a large part of the west Greenville community will remain with the families that own them.

“West Greenville has been disconnected from the downtown area because of the dilapidated warehouse site,” Banning said. He believes the hotel, public event space and apartments will bring west Greenville closer to the downtown area.

The final agreement should include a city capital grant investment that will be equal to 75 percent of the annual property tax for 12 years.

The 12-year total is $561,600 or $46,800 annually for 12 years, Cowin said.

The project is expected to generate about $5.3 million in revenue for the city, Cowin said, with most of it coming from the sale of the land.

The price must be finalized, but Cowin estimates it the land should bring about $3 million and taxes should bring another $2.3 million.

However, the developers want the city to rebuild a portion of Atlantic Avenue and pay for the public parking/events space on Clark Street for a total cost of $1.5 million.

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