It looks like Greensboro won’t be getting a new skyscraper this go round, but a parking deck, hotel, office, retail and more residential may be coming to Eugene Street – all beside each other instead of one on top of the other.
The City of Greensboro and Roy Carroll (who owns this newspaper) have been going round and round on a parking deck deal on land Carroll owns on the corner of Bellemeade and Eugene streets across from the First National Bank Field. But it looks like they have come up with a plan that’s going to benefit Greensboro, Guilford County and Carroll.
Greensboro is going to buy the the Sandhills Center Mental Health Building and the surrounding land at 201 N. Eugene St. from Guilford County for about $5.5 million. Councilmember Nancy Hoffmann said that if you consider building had value, the deal looked a lot better for the city. If you considered that the building needed to be torn down, then it’s not as good a deal, but still not a bad deal. As part of the purchase agreement, the city is going to lease the building back to Guilford County for two years at $1 a year.
According to Mayor Nancy Vaughan, the City Council plans to approve the purchase at its July 17 meeting and then Greensboro will build its own parking deck on the property next to Carroll’s lot on the corner. Vaughan said that Carroll would sell them a small piece of his lot to make the parking deck fit and the city planned to sell Carroll some of the excess land for the hotel, office, residential and retail development.
Vaughan said, “I think it’s a really good solution.”
She added, “It’s a good deal for the county.”
She said the county would get some cash (no doubt the schools are already asking for it) and get to use the Sandhills building for two years.
Vaughan said, “It’s a much cleaner development deal and makes the price of the parking deck much lower.”
Carroll said that everything was preliminary at this point but that the plan was to bury the parking deck behind the office, hotel and mixed-use buildings so that it would not be visible from Eugene Street. But the garage would have access to both Eugene and Bellemeade Streets. Carroll said the current plan under consideration would require him to sell some of the corner lot to the city to get the parking deck to fit where they want it and he would buy some land for his development.
Carroll said, “We’re not using prime street frontage for a parking deck.”
He said that this would allow the Project Slugger building to move forward. Project Slugger is the six- or nine-story office building planned to sit right beside the First National Bank Field, and it needs dedicated parking, which is what was pushing this whole city parking deck plan in the beginning.
Carroll said, “I think it’s a better plan at the end of the day, for the city, the county, Project Slugger and us. Everybody comes out good on this deal.”
He added, “The taxpayer benefits too because there’ll be $120 million worth of new development going on the tax rolls.”
Carroll said that the current plan for his project was to build the office building on the corner and then a 150-room Aloft Hotel with some retail and residential on Eugene Street. He said this plan gave him more usable space on his site without having a big parking deck eating up so much of the property.
Vaughan said that even considering the city would have to eat the design fees for the earlier plan, the city would save about $6 million or $7 million on building the deck. She said, “It’s a much cleaner development deal. It’s less expensive and quicker to build. There are no air rights to worry about and we don’t have to build a supersized parking deck that someone may never build on top of. It’s much simpler all the way around.”
Both Vaughan and Carroll gave City Manager David Parrish credit for putting together a deal that would work.
Carroll said, “One thing I’ve learned to appreciate about David is he’s an outside-the-box thinker. He’s had some difficult problems to solve and worked them out for the city. I think he’ll make an outstanding city manager.”
The original plan was to build a city-owned parking deck with retail on the first floor, and then Carroll was going to build a hotel, office and residential structure on top of the city-owned deck.
In April, Vaughan called Carroll and said the deal was off and the city planned to buy property from the Guilford Merchants Association (GMA) and build the parking deck across the street. The city said Carroll had missed the deadline to complete negotiations and Carroll said he didn’t even know there was a deadline.
There never was any discernible movement by the city to buy the land from the GMA and build a parking deck on its parking lot across the street, but that was the story the city was selling.
So the whole deal was at loggerheads when Parrish took over as city manager on May 1. It didn’t take Parrish long to figure out a different and, by all accounts, better way to get things done.
The city still has to buy the land and design a parking deck, but if all goes as planned, dirt could be moving pretty soon.