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Redevelopment firm enters sale agreement for Empire Hotel

by Rebecca Rider

rebecca.rider@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — Downtown Salisbury Inc. has signed away the Empire Hotel, it announced in a press conference this morning. DSI has signed a purchase agreement with Historic Preservation Partners Holdings, LLC in the amount of $880,000, Salisbury  Public Information Officer Linda McElroy said.

The old building, which occupies most of the 200 block of South Main Street, has been empty for decades. Billy Hughes, a developer with Historic Preservation Partners, said the group has tentative plans to turn the building into retail space and market-value apartments — including the retail space in the former Montgomery Ward main floor, mezzanine and basement.

Combined, the project will allow for approximately 29,000 square feet of retail space. Historic Preservation Partners specializes in redeveloping historic buildings in medium to small towns up and down the East Coast — including the Loray Mill in Gaston County.

“I don’t have to tell you you that it was love at first sight,” principal developer William “Billy” Hughes said, “That building is spectacular.”

Mayor Karen Alexander called the Empire Hotel a “pivotal historic preservation jewel,” during this morning’s press conference at the Gateway Building on East Innes Street. DSI purchased the hotel in 2007 with financing chipped in from seven local banks, and had high hopes of renovating it until the recession hit.

Officials said that several recognized environmental conditions were identified during a phase I environmental study.

Hughes said the project tentatively sits at 26 months. It will take approximately 12 months to secure financing and approval through state and federal avenues, and an estimated 14 months for construction. Hughes estimates that the redevelopment will cost a total $20 million. Historic Preservation Partners has not closed on the building, and will not until they secure financing.

“The Empire Hotel project is contingent upon the positive outcome of several factors such as a market feasibility study, financial feasibility analysis, planning review and community input. The developer is proceeding with an expectation that the sale agreement will close in August 2017, with groundbreaking to begin in 2018,” McElroy said in an e-mailed press release.

However, Hughes said the redevelopment firm has no plans of backing out.

The Empire Hotel was built in 1855 by local attorney Nathaniel Boyden, opening to the public three years later as a “first class hotel” on the heels of the railroad’s arrival in Salisbury. Then known as the Boyden House, the property also housed permanent residents throughout its 100-year operating history. After years of substantial renovations and management turnover, the hotel finally closed its doors in 1963. DSI purchased the hotel in 2007 from the Ragsdale family of Jamestown with the intention of stabilizing and developing the property.

Read the full story in tomorrow’s paper.

Contact reporter Rebecca Rider at 704-797-4264.

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