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Empire Hotel Redevelopment Task Force anticipates making recommendation in next few weeks

By Natalie Anderson
natalie.anderson@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — Members of the Empire Hotel Redevelopment Task Force say they anticipate making a recommendation for a final decision on the project’s developer within the next few weeks.

Both Task Force Chair Whitney Wallace Williams and Mayor Karen Alexander told the Post on Tuesday the task force is awaiting the completion of a financial feasibility analysis of the two proposals. The study is being conducted by Development Finance Initiative, a firm with the UNC School of Government that partners with local governments to attract private investments. The city has previously worked with the firm to conduct its own downtown study.

Williams said DFI’s study has been “the big missing piece of the puzzle,” and will provide a more comprehensive overview of the project’s feasibility. Alexander said the task force was told the study should be provided within the next few weeks. The firm has been receiving additional detailed information from both development teams.

Once the task force reviews the study, it will provide a recommendation to the Downtown Salisbury Inc. Board since DSI owns the property and has final say on the project. Both proposals involve a mixed-use design concept with retail and residential spaces.

The hotel’s location is in an Opportunity Zone. It 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 eligible for historic tax credits.

In September 2020, the city ended its exclusive negotiations with Black Point Investments, which had been in negotiation with the city on the project since 2016. A task force was formed later that month to begin receiving and narrowing down proposals. Williams and Alexander say the process has involved several factors, including the study, a 90-day due diligence period and some merging of plans and modifications. Nonetheless, both say they are confident in how expedient yet thorough the process has been.

Alexander said she knows the long process can be frustrating for the public, but her personal experience as a private developer involved in real estate deals has shown how lengthy it can be.

“I have felt — having served on this task force all of this time — that the members who are part of this task force take their role very seriously,” Alexander said. “They have outstanding questions and comments when new information comes in. Having been a private developer and done real estate deals personally and for clients, everything in the process takes longer than what you’d want it to take.”

Contact reporter Natalie Anderson at 704-797-4246.

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