By Natalie Anderson
SALISBURY – While the city awaits a decision on the Empire Hotel redevelopment project, the selection will be between two different proposals involving a mixed-use design concept with commercial and residential spaces.
Members of the Empire Hotel redevelopment task force told the Post last week that they are awaiting the completion of a financial feasibility analysis of the two proposals, which they say will be provided in the coming weeks. . The study is being conducted by the Development Finance Initiative, a UNC School of Government company that partners with local governments to attract private investment. The city has previously worked with the company to conduct its own downtown survey.
Once the task force reviews the study, it will provide a recommendation to the board of directors of Downtown Salisbury Inc. as DSI owns the property and has the final say on the project.
Charlotte-based freelance developer Brett Krueger has offered to build around 40 apartments in the hotel, with up to 10,000 square feet to be used as retail space at the front of the hotel. Krueger said he intends to have a retail space that directly supports and benefits artists and artistic growth. He is also considering space for a local restaurant, with a bar area for musicians and small groups to perform.
Krueger also wants to restore more than 20 hotel rooms in the hotel, as well as the ballroom for the event space. His plan includes the construction of a spa.
The aim is to have a boutique-style hotel that is a “throwback to Salisbury’s history” while being fashionable, he said. From 2011 to 2018, Krueger oversaw the construction and development of the Windsor Boutique Hotel in Asheville and the Ivey’s Hotel in Charlotte.
“I’m trying to create a central space for everyone in Salisbury,” Krueger said. “And I want that to be tied to the future of Salisbury. I want it to be linked to the history of Salisbury.
Meanwhile, a group of local developers have joined forces to come up with a similar design concept with some differences in the retail space. Josh Barnhardt of Iron Horse Development, Bill Greene of G2 Development, LLC and Justin Mueller of Sherwood Development Group have offered to tackle different sections of the hotel in hopes of speeding up its completion.
Barnhardt would focus on the area that once included the Efird department store, which operated at 226 S. Main St. on the Empire Hotel block. He plans to build five ‘row houses’, which resemble lift-less townhouses seen in other historic locations, as well as an additional top-floor apartment. “Row houses” originate in Europe in the 16th century and consist of a row of terraced dwellings sharing side walls. Barnhardt said he plans to create a small retail space or two for tenants in that area.
Greene said he will focus on the center of the hotel, which involves catering the ballroom for events, building around 27 apartments, and potentially providing Airbnb spaces. Additionally, Greene said he spoke to Salisbury residents and other stakeholders for a local restaurant with outdoor seating. From his informal talks, he said it was interesting to bring an Indian or Mexican restaurant downtown.
In addition, Greene will have approximately four spaces for potential retailers. Options include a grocery store for downtown residents and a distillery.
Mueller will focus on the Montgomery Ward space and envision it serving as a small business incubator and collaborative workspace, with at least one promising tenant already, Greene and Barnhardt told the Post.
The historic structure makes the project difficult, Krueger said, as the building will need an overhaul of its structural support, framing, and electrical and plumbing systems. Retaining some of the Empire Hotel’s original features, such as the two domes above, requires complete reconstruction, he added.
The hotel’s location is in an area of opportunity and it has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places as part of the historic Salisbury district. It is classified as a local historic monument and is eligible for historical tax credits.
Barnhardt also noted the complexity of such a project as the structure has remained intact for decades. For his team, he estimates at least 36 months to complete the project.
Recent Barnhardt developments include the refurbishment of the building at 112-114 E. Innes St. to house the new Barnhardt Jewelers store and two new apartments facing downtown. This building included historical considerations since it was built in the 19th century. Greene is currently working alongside other local developers to build a handful of apartments as part of the renovation of the historic Bell Block Building at 133 S. Main St., which was built in 1898.
But the two teams vying for the Empire Hotel redevelopment have said it could be emotionally rewarding. Krueger said that building a five-star hotel changes the region forever and invites more investment and development opportunities.
“It’s more about the satisfaction of seeing a crown jewel like this restored and helping to spur the growth of Salisbury town center,” Barnhardt said. “To do that would be amazing. “
Greene said that while her team’s idea isn’t the sexiest or flashiest, it’s a concept that works for the space.
“It’s a key element. It needs to be resolved, ”Greene said. “And after watching this for god knows how long, I think we have a solid idea.”
Contact reporter Natalie Anderson at 704-797-4246.