Construction hasn’t begun on the February One parking deck and Westin Hotel project, but it’s not easement issues or lawsuits holding up the project that was first announced in 2016.
Although the site has been cleared for construction with three buildings and an old parking deck demolished, there is no construction work presently taking place because the city and the developer have not reached an agreement on the contract.
The construction can’t begin until there is a signed contract. City Attorney Tom Carruthers said the city was close to reaching an agreement and it would likely be signed within the next month.
The fact that there is no signed contract is an indication of how complicated public-private partnerships can be.
The city has finally settled all of its issues with Rocky Scarfone, the owner of the N Club LLC and the Cone Denim Entertainment Center. Scarfone owned easements across the parking lot where the February One Place parking deck and Westin Hotel complex is going to be built, and negotiations to get the easement issue settled started shortly after the city purchased the property in July 2017.
Although it has been reported that the legal battle with Scarfone was holding up the project, it turns out that’s not the case because the construction can’t start until the contract is completed and signed.
The city purchased the property in July 2017, which is when the issues over easements owned by businesses fronting on South Elm Street were brought to light.
The City Council voted to condemn Scarfone’s easements on Dec. 19, 2017. Scarfone sued and, in April, and when the judge still hadn’t made a ruling, the city reached a settlement with Scarfone, paying him $735,000 and giving him land to build a green room behind the Cone Denim Entertainment Center.
It was thought at the time that the settlement had been pushed because the lawsuit was holding up the construction of the parking deck and hotel.
Scarfone then had a second issue because city regulations wouldn’t allow him to build a green room and, as it turned out, he had not signed all the settlement documents. So the settlement agreement was not quite as complete as the city thought it was when it handed Scarfone a check.
The city reached a second settlement with Scarfone, agreeing to sell him the air rights over the alley and once again it was thought that Scarfone had been holding up construction. But that second issue was settled on August 21.
Some thought if it had not been settled Scarfone would sue again, but it appears that neither action by Scarfone has actually delayed the construction of the parking deck and hotel complex because without a contract between Greensboro and Elm Street Hotel LLC, which is building the entire complex, construction cannot begin.
The city had also entered into an agreement with the president of the Carroll Companies, Roy Carroll, who is also the publisher of this newspaper, to build a parking deck, hotel and mixed-use structure on land Carroll owns at the corner of Eugene and Bellemeade streets. In April, when an agreement on that construction project had not been reached, Mayor Nancy Vaughan called Carroll and told him the city was breaking off negotiations and would pursue other options for a parking deck. It was something of a ruse since the city had no other options at the time.
Eventually the city and Carroll worked out an entirely different deal that, although complicated, is evidently not nearly as complex as building a privately owned structure on top of a city parking deck. The current deal with Carroll calls for the city to buy the Sandhills Mental Health Center on the corner of Eugene Street and Friendly Avenue and the parking lot surrounding it from Guilford County and build a city parking deck in the interior of the lot. Most of the street frontage will be sold to Carroll for development and Carroll will also sell or trade some of the land he owns on the corner of Bellemeade and Eugene to the city so the parking deck can be positioned properly on the lot.
Greensboro and Carroll have reached an agreement on how the land will be divvied up and Guilford County has agreed to sell, but the Guilford County Board of Commissioners has not yet approved the sale.
It looks like this deal is going to go through even though it involves two elected bodies, a developer and a series of land sales and swaps.
For the proposed February One Place and Westin Hotel project, it appears both the city and Elm Street Hotel LLC have too much invested at this point not to reach an agreement, but only time will tell.