Empire Hotel redevelopment deal falls through; city looks for new developer

Published 10:27 am Tuesday, September 8, 2020

SALISBURY — City officials on Tuesday said negotiations with Black Point Investments to redevelop the Empire Hotel have fallen through and other developers will have their shot at the project.

The city, along with Downtown Salisbury, Inc., has formed an Empire Development Task Force to continue a search for a developer.

A news release said Salisbury and DSI offered a final proposal to the developer in July in an attempt to conclude negotiations on the project. The proposal was to “enter into a simple option to purchase the property outright with city incentives for completing the project on time.” The proposal, which included a $700,000 purchase price through Dec. 31, was not accepted by the developer. The developer offered a counterproposal that was not approved by the DSI Board of Directors or Salisbury City Council.

“Although the DSI Board of Directors is disappointed the Empire Hotel project will not be moving forward with BPI after many years of hard work and negotiations, we are eager to explore new possibilities for its redevelopment,” said Whitney Wallace Williams, whose term recently ended as DSI’s chairperson. “To that end, we have created an Empire Development Task Force, whose members will guide the search for a new developer with the right fit and vision for our historic downtown.”

In a news release, Salisbury Mayor Karen Alexander noted positive developments with the historic property, including two brownfields assessments, market feasibility and parking studies. Additionally, the site has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places as part of the Salisbury Historic District, listed as a local Historic Landmark and is now eligible for Historic Tax Credits.

“The Empire Hotel is positioned quite well now, particularly as a property within an Opportunity Zone, and is more marketable for additional development proposals,” Alexander added.

In 2016, it was announced that DSI and the developer signed a purchase agreement for the property. The group had tentative plans to convert the former hotel into market-rate apartments in addition to retail space. The project is part of a 2010 Downtown Master Plan, which advocates for the expansion of downtown with a goal of fostering a diverse, livable residential district.

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 century-long 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.