As far as Greensboro building a parking deck on Eugene Street, it appears the third time is the charm.
At the Tuesday, July 17 meeting in the Council Chambers, the Greensboro City Council approved a complicated land deal to buy 2.6 acres of land from Guilford County and trade some with Roy Carroll to provide the footprint needed to build a parking deck in the interior of the lot on Eugene Street, and then sell the remaining 1.7 acres of the land purchased from Guilford County to Carroll. Mayor Nancy Vaughan described this as “Plan C.”
Plan A was to build a parking deck on land owned by Carroll, who owns this paper, on the southwest corner of Bellemeade and Eugene streets. The city would have owned the parking deck and Carroll had planned to build a hotel, office and residential tower on top of the parking deck.
In April Vaughan called Carroll and said that the city had run out of time to negotiate the deal and would be building a parking deck across the street on land owned by the Guilford Merchants Association.
That Plan B turned out to be based more on hope than any plan. The city, according to multiple sources, never made a serious attempt to buy the land from the GMA, but claimed that it could purchase the land and build the deck in about 18 months.
Carroll said that until he received the phone call from Vaughan he was unaware that there was a set deadline to complete the negotiations.
At the end of April, City Manager Jim Westmoreland retired and City Manager David Parrish, who was at the time interim city manager, took over negotiations with Carroll and Parrish came up with a whole new plan that, although complicated, is evidently not as complicated as having a private developer build on top of a city-owned parking deck.
The City Council on Tuesday agreed to pay $5.5 million to Guilford County for the county-owned building and parking lot at the corner of Friendly Avenue and Eugene Street that now houses Sandhills Center, which provides mental health services for the county. The City Council also approved trading 0.364 acres of land with Carroll for the parking deck and 0.092 acres for an entrance on Bellemeade Street, and as part of the deal the city has agreed to sell Carroll the remaining 1.6 acres of land for $2.3 million.
Guilford County will be allowed to rent the building back from the city for two years at $1 a year. After that, the plan is for the city to demolish the building and complete the sale to Carroll. This will give Carroll the remainder of the street frontage on Eugene up to Friendly Avenue, minus the entrance to the parking deck.
The entire deal is contingent on Guilford County selling the 2.6 acre parcel to Greensboro for $5.5 million. The appraised value is $6.02 million.
City Councilmembers Justin Outling and Michelle Kennedy both said they originally opposed the plan because they thought Guilford County should be a participant in building the parking deck since Guilford County will benefit from the increased tax revenue.
Tuesday night, Parrish explained that this plan will allow the city to build a less expensive parking deck because it will be precast concrete instead of poured, and – because the parking deck will be in the interior of the lot rather than on the street – the facade of the parking deck can look like what it is, a parking deck, and the parking deck won’t be taking up valuable street frontage.
All four motions to buy the land, make the land trades and design the parking deck passed on unanimous votes by the City Council. The City Council also had to rescind an earlier resolution to spend up to $30 million on Plan A.
Carroll said he intends to build an office building, an Aloft Hotel, retail and residential on the land. Carroll is currently nearing completion of a Westin Hotel and 300 apartments on Eugene Street across from First National Bank Field ballpark.
The city parking deck will allow the Project Slugger office building to be constructed on the First National Bank Field property at the corner of Eugene and Bellemeade to go forward. The city had agreed to rent out up to 265 parking spaces for the proposed six-story office building.
The proposed $25 million to $50 million expansion of Friends Home and Friends Home West was passed by the City Council with only Councilmember Sharon Hightower casting a dissenting vote.
The neighbors who opposed the rezoning request only had one objection – a private controlled access road between Friends Home on New Garden Road and Friends Home West on Friendly Avenue.
As was noted numerous times during the lengthy discussion, the two senior living facilities almost touch each other, but to get from one to the other requires driving on three different streets and through four traffic lights.
Connecting the two with an interior private road seemed like a no-brainer.
Tom Terrell with Smith Moore Leatherwood, who represented Friends Home, said about the neighbors who were in opposition: “They asked if it could be private. We said yes. They asked if it could be gated. We said yes. They asked if it could be delayed for a number of years. We said yes.”
The neighbors talked about the noise and traffic this controlled access, private road between two senior living facilities would bring to the neighborhood, but it was hard to imagine that it would become a heavily traveled expressway, which is what the descriptions of some neighbors made it sound like.
Terrell said that they began communicating with the neighborhood about the proposed changes in February 2017.
Councilmember Tammi Thurm said she had spent a lot of time going door to door in the neighborhood during the 2017 election and “The number one thing I heard is we don’t want a public road through the neighborhood.”
She said that Friends Home had gone above and beyond what they had been asked to do.
Councilmember Marikay Abuzuaiter said, “I felt that they were worried that it was going to be a cut through and going to be a speedway. Really this is everything that the neighborhood wanted.”
Councilmember Goldie Wells noted that in her community in east Greensboro, they had been fighting for connectivity for years. She said, “It will connect the people in one Friends Home to the other. Connectivity is important, not just for streets but for people.”
Councilmember Nancy Hoffmann said that one of the goals of the City Council was to connect neighborhoods to neighborhoods and to activity centers, which is what this road was going to do.
Kennedy commented on one objection of the neighborhood, that they didn’t know exactly what the road would look like when it was built. She said, “The reality is that the planning for that road hasn’t happened yet. They don’t have a plan because they haven’t gotten to that point.”
If Friends Home had been a commercial developer instead of a senior center that has been serving the community for 60 years, what they likely would have done was insist that the road be public, right up until the City Council meeting, and then added a condition that it be made private. Developers do it all the time. They wait until the last minute and then make changes that negate most of the objections.
Friends Home agreed to make the requested changes far in advance of the City Council meeting and still faced opposition.
Proving once again that the current City Council is small business unfriendly, the City Council voted down a request to rezone a single-family home at 303 College Road to Conditional Use Office for J&K Builders of NC, despite the unusually strong recommendation from staff that the rezoning be approved.
The only objection came from one neighbor who, according to his attorney, mainly objected to the outdoor storage of construction material and having construction vehicles on the property, neither of which would have been allowed under the office zoning being requested.
Outling pointed out several times that the outdoor storage would be illegal with the office zoning, but it didn’t seem to take with the majority of the City Council. It’s an area in transition and using a home for an office according to staff was a compatible use.
The rezoning request was denied on a 5-to-3 vote with Hoffmann, Outling and Vaughan voting in favor and Councilmembers Yvonne Johnson, Abuzuaiter, Hightower, Kennedy and Wells voting against small business. Thurm was recused because the law firm she works for was involved.