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Commissioners approve Empire Hotel tax incentives

SALISBURY – The Rowan County commissioners on Monday voted to approve a tax incentive agreement for a plan to redevelop the Empire Hotel.

The Rowan Economic Development Commission presented a summary of the project. Vice President Scott Shelton took the lead, saying the commissioners and the community at large are familiar with the project.

The two-year construction by Black Point Investments will redevelop the hotel property into apartments and commercial space. Black Point’s proposal will redevelop the 104,000-square-foot facility on a 1.39-acre site into 62 market-rate apartments and six small retail spaces on South Main Street.

The project is expected to increase the property tax value of the building from nearly $1 million to $13 million after renovations are complete, according to the Rowan EDC. The property is currently not generating any tax revenue for Rowan County.

The commissioners were considering giving the property a 25% tax incentive on top of what it would already receive. Because of the property’s landmark status, it receives an automatic 50% reduction in taxes. During the five-year incentive period, the county would collect $427,375 in revenue for the Empire property. The county would retain $106,841 of revenue during the incentive term.

“This sounds like a project that if you build it, they will come,” said Evelyn Medina, owner of downtown’s Mean Mug Coffee Co., during a public hearing.

Medina said that, with the renovations to the Empire Hotel could possibly bring in new businesses that will draw in tourists and new residents.

“It’s like a skeleton in our beautiful downtown, to have this building empty,” Medina said. “I ask on behalf of downtown Salisbury business owners to help us get this done and give the support to make this project happen.”

Diane Young, vice chairwoman of Downtown Salisbury Inc., echoed some of Medina’s statements.

“This is a unique request and a unique project that will bring in new residents and help to retain jobs,” Young said.

The history of the Empire Hotel dates back more than 150 years. Construction began on in 1855, and the hotel opened on May 17, 1859.

The hotel closed for good in 1963. It was owned by the Ragsdale family of Jamestown from the 1890s until 2007.

Black Point Investments is negotiating with the city of Salisbury about the extension of the purchase option to June 26, 2020, as well as different sales prices based on the purchase date.

The majority of construction, equipment installation, and infrastructure improvements are scheduled to be complete by Dec. 31, 2021.

In other business:

• Francisco Ortiz received approval for a rezoning of an 8.35-acre parcel in the 1000 block of Chuck Taylor Lane from a special economic development designation to commercial, business and industrial.

• Storm Ready, a community preparedness program that encourages government entities and commercial gathering sights to prepare for severe storms, presented a certificate of recognition to Rowan County as “storm ready.”

• Rod Crider, president of the Economic Development Commission, made a presentation to the board and presented members of the board with “Rockstar” awards.

• James LaPann, of Faulk & Foster, received approval for a conditional use permit on behalf of Verizon Wireless to accommodate a 195-foot, monopole wireless support structure with a 4-foot lightning rod at St. Peters Church and Hill roads in eastern Rowan. The proposed tower will allow Verizon Wireless to address a documented lack of coverage.

• Cypress Creek Renewables, doing business as Saw Solar LLC, received approval to develop a 6.9-megawatt ground-mounted solar energy system on 50 acres of a 151-acre property owned by the Oscho Deal and Martha Deal Revocable Trusts.

The board approved a number of items on the consent agenda, including:

•  A proclamation for Library Card Sign-up Month.

• An American Children’s Home contract at a cost not to exceed $480,000 for foster care services.

• An airport conference room fee schedule.

• Waiving term limits for the fire commissioner of the Enochville Volunteer Fire Department

• Scheduling a public hearing for land use text amendments for Sept. 3.

• Purchasing a landfill compactor for environmental management at a cost of $558,760, excluding taxes.

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