New details out on Kimpton's uptown hotel (RENDERING)

San Francisco-based Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants has unveiled the name of its 18-story hotel under construction in uptown Charlotte: Kimpton Tryon Park Hotel.

The 217-room hotel at Third and Church streets — part of a larger mixed-use development that includes a 630,000-square-foot office tower by The Spectrum Cos. and Barings — is on track for an October opening, according to the company. Kimpton Tryon Park will include a ground-floor restaurant, more than 9,000 square feet of meeting and event space (including a 4,000-square-foot ballroom), and a 1,100-square-foot rooftop bar.

Robert Hannigan, who joined Kimpton in 2007, has been appointed as Kimpton Tryon Park Hotel's general manager. Hannigan was previously general manager at Kimpton Hotel Monaco Portland, a 220-room hotel in Portland, Ore.

“I’m tremendously excited about the opportunity to open Kimpton’s first hotel in Charlotte,” Hannigan said in a statement. “Our company is proud to bring its pioneering approach to boutique hospitality to the Queen City, and we can’t wait to introduce Kimpton Tryon Park Hotel to the community this fall."

Ashley Fahey
Charlotte Business Journal

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CIAA Releases Impact Numbers

Estimated economic benefit from staging the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association basketball tournament dipped this year by $10 million, or 17%, according to figures released by the conference Monday afternoon.

The men’s and women’s basketball tournament generated $47.4 million and brought in an estimated 103,000 to 138,000 visitors, the CIAA said. In 2016, the tournament added $57.4 million worth of spending and spin-off benefits to the local economy and $31.5 million in direct spending on meals, hotel rooms and other expenses. Direct spending for 2017 was $27 million, or 14% below the previous year.

Economic impact for this year was the fourth-highest since the CIAA tournament came to Charlotte in 2006, according to the conference. Local government and agencies contribute $2 million annually to the CIAA tournament through scholarship donations, use of city-owned venues and other in-kind donations.

The CIAA split between venues for the first time in 2017, playing the first part of the tournament at 8,600-seat Bojangles’ Coliseum and ending in the 19,000-seat Spectrum Center. No other annual tourism event in Charlotte has a larger impact than the CIAA, executives at the visitors authority have said.

Next year, the tournament runs Feb. 27 through March 3. The conference, comprised of 12 historically black colleges and universities, including Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, is under contract with the city to play the tournament here through 2020.

City Council is examining how to increase attendance and also exploring whether and how to cordon off larger areas of uptown for CIAA-sanctioned events while making changes to permit policies for pop-up events. The latter discussion stems from concerns over shootings and altercations each of the past four years during tournament week. In each case, the incidents occurred near CIAA sites, but not at conference-sanctioned events.

Some on council asked CIAA and tourism executives after the 2017 event to consider putting the week-long tournament at Spectrum Center, the NBA area uptown, and scrapping the games at Bojangles’, the format used from 2006 through 2016. Tom Murray, CEO of the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority, told the city economic development committee the current split arrangement is better because it saves money — the NBA arena costs more to operate — and because it gives the NBA Charlotte Hornets greater schedule flexibility.

Erik Spanberg
Charlotte Business Journal

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Marriott Center City Sold

The newly renovated Charlotte Marriott City Center is changing hands in an acquisition by Carey Watermark Investors 2 Inc. The uptown hotel has been touted as a "hotel idea incubator" or "live beta hotel" — the first of its kind when renovations were unveiled in October — that allows customers to test new product and service concepts first-hand all while giving feedback in real-time. A news release on the property sale this morning offers few details on the deal.

Jen Wilson
Charlotte Business Journal

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Charlotte airport wants full-service hotel where the control tower now stands

Charlotte Douglas International Airport said Monday it expects to build a full-service hotel on the site of the control tower early next decade, when the Federal Aviation Administration abandons the site for a new, taller tower in 2020.

Stuart Hair, the airport’s economic affairs manager, said “multiple developers are interested” in building an on-site hotel, a first for the airport. Hair said the airport envisions landing a nationally known brand such as the Intercontinental, which would allow businesses and organizations to hold small conferences at CLT without leaving airport property.

The existing control tower is just north of the new hourly parking deck that’s adjacent to the terminal.

The airport also is planning a new automated people mover that would carry people from the hourly parking deck to Wilkinson Boulevard, where it might feed into a new light-rail line that the Charlotte Area Transit System would like to build. The people mover would likely run through the hotel, Hair said.

The discussion was part of the airport’s presentation to City Council about a consultant’s new long-term plan for 25 square-miles surrounding the airport.

Charlotte Douglas wants to control, or at least guide, how the area grows. The airport envisions an area along Wilkinson Boulevard as a mixed-use village called “CLT Front Door.” That would have a mix of limited-service hotels, retail and office space.

The area west of Interstate 485 is slated for light industry, such as warehouses. There also would be retail and hotels, which would tie in with the River District, a massive new development of homes, offices and retail planned by Lincoln Harris.

The transportation network south of the airport would be overhauled. West Boulevard would be moved to the south to make way for a planned fourth parallel runway. The airport also envisions a new interchange at Interstate 485 and West Boulevard.

In terms of development, the area south of the airport is slated for more manufacturing and a possible expansion of the Norfolk Southern intermodal yard.

Hair said private developers have asked about the airport building new warehouses and offices and then leasing the space back to them.

“We have also had interest in us selling the land,” he said.

The airport doesn’t have a timeline as to when the nearby land will be developed. In the meantime, Charlotte Douglas is moving forward with several projects on airport property: the new fourth parallel runway, a new concourse on the site of the old rental-car parking lots, a widened terminal roadway and a larger ticketing area in the terminal.

Aviation director Brent Cagle also addressed Steele Creek Presbyterian Church, one of Mecklenburg’s oldest churches, which is increasingly affected by airport noise and development.

The church’s congregation voted Sunday to explore a merger with another Presbyterian church. That could begin the process of abandoning the site that has been its home for 257 years.

Cagle told council members the airport’s master plan does not call for the church to be bought and demolished.

He said the airport would buy the church if it’s for sale, but not the cemetery. But he said the airport is not pressuring the church.

“We will not force them out,” Cagle said.

Steve Harrison
Charlotte Observer
 

'Grill Bill' passes, will benefit N.C. hotels and restaurants

The North Carolina Senate approved S.B. 24, the "Grill Bill" on Thursday, opening the patio doors for hotels and restaurants to use outdoor grills for food preparation.

According to the language of the bill, the outdoor grill must have a cooking surface made of stainless steel or cast iron and must be stationed on a concrete or asphalt foundation. It must be supervised by an employee of the establishment and meet all sanitation requirements.

In addition, raw meats must be prepped indoors and handled only with utensils on the grill.

“The North Carolina Restaurant & Lodging Association applauds the North Carolina Senate’s approval of S.B. 24," said association President and CEO Lynn Minges following the vote. "NCRLA has strongly supported this bill, as it will be very beneficial to food service establishments. It will allow the state’s restaurants and hotels to use outdoor grills to better serve their patrons, especially during the approaching summer months."

Although an earlier version of the bill called for an Oct. 1, 2017 effective date, the latest version becomes effectively immediately as soon as the governor signs it — perhaps just in time for Memorial Day.

The bill was sponsored by Sens. Tom McInnis (R-Richmond), Jeff Tarte (R-Mecklenburg) and Jim Davis(R-Macon) and backed by House Speaker Tim Moore(R-Cleveland).

Rebecca Troyer
Editor-in-chief
Triad Business Journal

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Omni to invest $26M in renovating uptown hotel

The uptown Charlotte Omni Hotel will soon undergo $26 million in renovations.

The Omni, at the intersection of South College and East Trade streets, will be redesigned as a "contemporary lifestyle destination" that pays homage to Charlotte's history as a gold-mining center.

The hotel's 374 rooms and suites will be updated to include built-in custom casegoods, a coffee bar built into the countertops, an oversized sofa and redesigned bathrooms with new vanities and showers. Additionally, the rooms will have a new color palette and artwork.

The hotel lobby will receive new flooring, burnished metal wall finishes, a new guest registration, and new furniture and fixtures.

The rooftop pool deck at the Omni will be overhauled — about 3,000 square feet of space will be added, including a new bar and grill and large television screens. The front exterior wall of the hotel will be redesigned to allow more light into the building, with a glass exterior, linear panels on the ceiling and a reflective metal wall. Throughout the hotel, fabrics and finishes with gold and silver tones will be incorporated.

Trade Restaurant & Bar will be revamped to include a larger bar opening onto the lobby, in addition to new seating, tables, carpet and lighting. A menu with small bites and street-food favorites will be developed, according to Omni Hotels & Resorts. And the exclusive club lounge on the 14th floor has been updated with new counter bars, where breakfast, cocktails and appetizers for guests will be served.

Moncur Design Associates and CT+C Design Studio are spearheading the renovations.

"Once the transformation is complete, the Omni Charlotte Hotel will be a one-of-a-kind destination for leisure and business travelers, as well as meeting attendees,” said David Palumbo, general manager for the hotel, in a statement. “The property will feature a sleek new exterior, modern lobby experience, cosmopolitan guest rooms and suites, and an exclusive rooftop pool deck and bar space that will soon become the city’s go-to urban oasis.”

The renovations are underway now and are expected to be finished by December of this year, according to an Omni spokesman.

Ashley Fahey, Charlotte Business Journal

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Here's the latest on uptown Charlotte's newest luxury hotel

The hotel boom in uptown isn’t going to be finished when the latest round of five new hotels is open later this year or early next year: More luxury hotels are set to follow.

The latest, a Grand Bohemian planned by The Kessler Collection, is moving forward, documents filed recently with the city of Charlotte show. The hotel, on a half-acre site next to the Carrillon building on West Trade Street, was originally planned to start construction in late 2016.

Pre-construction documents filed with the city show the hotel is planned to total 254 rooms. That’s the first concrete confirmation of the hotel’s approximate size from Florida-based Kessler, which has been tight-lipped about the project. A spokeswoman declined to provide further details.

Kessler is getting ready to start the site work on the corner lot, the documents show, including the grading, drainage and other work that’s necessary before vertical construction can begin. A boutique hotel operator with 10 luxury properties in cities such as Asheville, Charleston and Savannah, the Grand Bohemian will join the InterContinental (300 rooms, in a tower planned to sit atop the Carolina Theatre building, opening in 2019) as the newest ultra-high-end hotel uptown.

Three hotels have opened uptown within the past month: A Springhill Suites (195 rooms), Embassy Suites (250 rooms) and Ivey’s (42 rooms). Next up: The Kimpton, next to Romare Bearden Park (217 rooms, opening in October) and the AC Hotel/Residence Inn, atop the EpiCentre (300 rooms, opening in late 2017 or early 2018).

Ely Portillo
elyportillo@charlotteobserver.com

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Not a done deal, but NBA expects to play All-Star Game in CLT

The NBA all but confirmed on Friday the league will award the 2019 All-Star Game to the Charlotte Hornets and the Spectrum Center. Commissioner Adam Silver said the league will require all involved in the All-Star events in North Carolina to make clear commitments to diversity and ensuring inclusion for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

Last summer, the NBA became the first major sports league or conference to remove an event from North Carolina because of House Bill 2. That law, passed in March 2016, required public restroom use in government buildings on the basis of birth gender and prevented cities and towns from adding LGBT characteristics to non-discrimination policies.

Charlotte was originally scheduled to host the All-Star Game in February 2017. Instead, it went to New Orleans. The weekend of exhibitions, dunk and 3-point contests and other events is televised in more than 200 countries and is expected to generate $60 million worth of visitor spending.

The state legislature passed a compromise law last week that repealed HB2 but drew criticism from LGBT advocates and others because it places a three-year moratorium on LGBT ordinances. The bathroom provision was removed.

“This is not an easy decision,” Silver said. “The most recent change in the law does not mean the fundamental issues are resolved. But, after considering all points of view, we concluded that Charlotte will be eligible to host the 2019 NBA All-Star Game.”

Silver made his remarks during a press conference after NBA owners concluded the spring board of governors meetings in New York.

Open access and anti-discrimination policies will need to be verified and guaranteed before the NBA officially puts the game in Charlotte in February 2019. Venues, hotels and other sites around Charlotte must show they will be inclusive, the commissioner added, saying those issues need to be resolved within the next month.

“It’s not a done deal yet,” Silver said. “What it means is we now need to go back to Charlotte and ensure that, one, all of our typical requirements are satisfied, so that process hasn’t begun yet. And then, in addition, we’re going to develop an anti-discrimination policy and then ask all of our participating partners to sign on to that policy. If those requirements are met, it’s our expectation the All-Star festivities will be there for 2019.”

The NCAA and the ACC have made similar moves since HB2 was repealed, pledging to bring back events and honor previous commitments threatened by the law. The NCAA, earlier this week, offered similarly dismayed opinions about the repeal and its failure to do more to protect LGBT people.

Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts and advocacy groups such as Human Rights Campaign and Equality NC, as well as corporations including Salesforce and Levi’s, have blasted the replacement law as a “false repeal.”

Part of the reason for the league’s decision stems from the NBA’s extensive presence and history in North Carolina. The original Charlotte Hornets joined the league in 1988 and Greensboro is now home to an NBA Developmental League team.

“Twenty-nine NBA teams travel every year to play in Charlotte, stay in its hotels and eat in its restaurants,” Silver said. “We believe that an All-Star Game in Charlotte could be a powerful way to display our values of equality and inclusion. And by engaging even more deeply in North Carolina, we can be part of a larger, national effort toward securing LGBT equality. Ultimately, I believe changing attitudes and not just laws is what will lead to that result.”

Erik Spanberg
Senior Staff Writer
Charlotte Business Journal

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NCAA: North Carolina now eligible to host events after HB2 repeal

The state of North Carolina is once again eligible to host NCAA championships, the governing body of collegiate sports said Tuesday morning in a statement.

The NCAA had pulled its championships at neutral sites out of North Carolina after House Bill 2 was passed in 2016. That move also threatened further championships in the state. Later this month, the NCAA will announce championship sites through 2022, and North Carolina cities such as Charlotte, Raleigh and Cary are heavily involved in pursuing those games.

With the NCAA deadline approaching, the North Carolina General Assembly repealed HB2 with a compromise and Gov. Roy Cooper signed the measure. On Tuesday, the NCAA raised some concerns about that deal but said it would still consider the state for sites.

“As with most compromises, this new law is far from perfect,” the NCAA said in a statement from its Board of Governors. “The NCAA did not lobby for any specific change in the law. The Board of Governors, however, was hopeful that the state would fully repeal HB2 in order to allow the host communities to ensure a safe, healthy, discrimination-free atmosphere for the championship sites.

“While the new law meets the minimal NCAA requirements, the board remains concerned that some may perceive North Carolina’s moratorium against affording opportunities for communities to extend basic civil rights as a signal that discriminatory behavior is permitted and acceptable, which is inconsistent with the NCAA Bylaws.

“However, we recognize the quality championships hosted by the people of North Carolina in years before HB2. And this new law restores the state to that legal landscape: a landscape similar to other jurisdictions presently hosting NCAA championships.”

The NCAA move against North Carolina meant, for example, that NCAA men’s basketball games were moved from Greensboro to Greenville, South Carolina.

The announcement comes the morning after UNC Chapel Hill won the NCAA men's title in a championship win over Gonzaga.

Dane Huffman
Managing Editor
Triangle Business Journal

Uptown's got three new hotels, and the latest just opened

The opening wave of the surge of new hotels in uptown has begun, with the Springhill Suites across from Spectrum Center becoming the latest property to add rooms to the Charlotte market.

The 195-room hotel, a Marriott franchise, opened for business Monday. It was developed by SREE Hotels, also the owner and operator. The hotel – a skinny tower built on a triangular patch of land next to the Blue Line light rail – features a 3,000 square-foot rooftop space that can accommodate functions with up to 250 people.

“As a brand opening a new hotel every 10 days on average, we are delighted that the SpringHill Suites Charlotte Uptown is the latest addition to our growing number of properties across the United States and Canada,” said Callette Nielsen, vice president and global brand manager for SpringHill Suites, in a statement.

The hotel is one of five opening uptown in the coming year. They include the Embassy Suites, across from the NASCAR Hall of Fame, a 250-room hotel that opened in March and Ivey’s, a 42-room boutique hotel opening later this week in what was once a department store on North Tryon Street.

Still to come: The Kimpton, next to Romare Bearden Park (217 rooms, opening in October) and the AC Hotel/Residence Inn, atop the EpiCentre (300 rooms, opening in late 2017 or early 2018).

That’s not it, however: A Grand Bohemian hotel is planned next to the Carillon building, and a pair of new hotels are on the drawing board at the Crescent Stonewall Station development on Stonewall Street. And InterContinental is developing a 20-story hotel with 250 rooms atop the Foundation for the Carolinas-owned Carolina Theatre.

Ely Portillo
elyportillo@charlotteobserver.com

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General Assembly Repeals 'HB2'

The General Assembly voted on Thursday to repeal the controversial statewide bathroom bill. The bill is expected to be signed into law by Governor Roy Cooper.
HB142, a bill that was a licensure bill but gutted and transformed into an HB2 repeal bill for expedience in response to a NCAA final deadline issued Monday. The vote on Thursday came after 48 hours of intense negotiations between Governor Cooper, Sen. Phil Berger (R-Rockingham), Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland), and Senate Minority Leader Dan Blue (D-Wake).

Governor, Senate, House Reach Agreement to Repeal HB2, Protect Bathroom Safety and Privacy

Raleigh, N.C. – House Bill 2 will be repealed, with bathroom safety and privacy fully protected, as part of a major compromise agreement announced by Gov. Roy Cooper, Senate Leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore Wednesday night.

The compromise does the following:

  • Repeals HB2;
  • Protects privacy in bathrooms and shower facilities by leaving regulation of multi-occupancy facilities to the state, returning to the status quo prior to passage of Charlotte’s bathroom ordinance;
  • Implements a temporary moratorium on local ordinances similar to Charlotte’s until December 1, 2020 to allow federal litigation to play out. 

Brunch Bill Vote in the Senate Commerce and
Insurance Committee Today

It is a "local option” bill, meaning that cities and counties may, but are not required to, adopt ordinances allowing alcohol sales to start at 10 a.m. on Sunday. This local option feature has proven to be attractive to many legislators who are otherwise skeptical of changing current law. 
This bill will be voted on today in the Senate Commerce and Insurance Committee. NCRLA is asking for your help to ensure its passage. We encourage all members to add your signatures to the online advocacy letter linked below. There is space for you to add personal comments in support of this legislation. Click here.

20-Story InterContinental hotel to rise atop Carolina Theatre in Charlotte

Charlotte is getting a major new luxury hotel as part of the long-planned restoration of a historic-but-derelict theater uptown, officials announced Tuesday.

A 250-room InterContinental hotel will rise atop the renovated and restored Carolina Theatre at Sixth and North Tryon streets. In addition to continuing uptown’s hotel building boom, the new hotel tower will add momentum to designs for revitalizing the northern end of uptown.

The $42 million planned renovation of the theater by owner is starting in May, Foundation for the Carolinas CEO Michael Marsicano said. The non-profit foundation owns the defunct theater. This will be the first InterContintental-brand hotel in Charlotte. The upscale hotel targets “international luxury travel,” and operates 187 locations in cities including New York, Miami, Los Angeles, Beijing and Sao Paulo.

The building dates to 1927, and was once one of Charlotte’s grand theaters. Since it closed in 1978, the building has sat vacant and deteriorating. In the 1980s, the city dismantled the old building facade’s windows, arches and exterior ornaments, storing them under the crumbling stage.

“This ugly duckling will start the transformation to a beautiful swan,” said Marsicano at the group’s annual meeting.

In 2012, Charlotte City Council gave the theater to the foundation for $1. In the nearly five years since, the building has mostly sat unchanged. In December 2015, the foundation announced plans to build a hotel atop the old theater and renovate the interior, joining the building with its own headquarters next door and creating a new civic space uptown.

Plans call for restoring the theater and its original facade behind a new “jewel box” glass exterior, which will frame a new lobby.

Construction on the renovation had been planned to start in mid-2016, but was delayed. Valor Hospitality Partners signed on to lease the air rights above the theater and bring in a 4- or 5-star luxury hotel for the property. SB&G Hotel Group, an Australian company, is partnering with Valor on the project.

The 250-room hotel is planned to total 20 stories. Atop the five-story theater, that would bring the project’s total height to 25 stories.

Foundation for the Carolinas is the sixth-largest of the nation’s 800 or so community foundations, with more than $2.1 billion worth of assets.

Hotel boom, North Tryon plan

The InterContinental is the latest – and most upscale – new hotel planned uptown. Since cratering during the recession and its aftermath, the uptown hotel market has seen a surge of new projects that could increase the number of hotel rooms by around 40 percent.

These projects include:
▪ Embassy Suites, across from the NASCAR Hall of Fame (250 rooms, opened this month).
▪ Kimpton, next to Romare Bearden Park (217 rooms, opening in October).
▪ Springhill Suites, across from the Spectrum Center (195 rooms, opening in April).
▪ AC Hotel/Residence Inn, atop the EpiCentre (300 rooms, opening in late 2017 or early 2018).

Other projects on the drawing books uptown include a Grand Bohemian hotel next to the Carillon building and a pair of new hotels at the Crescent Stonewall Station development on Stonewall Street.

And more changes are planned near the Carolina Theatre site as part of the North Tryon Vision Plan, meant to spur more development along the northern side of uptown. Mecklenburg County is considering a complex proposal to replace the Main Library on Tryon Street, redevelop the surrounding area with more apartments and office buildings, refurbish Hall House, McGlohon Theater and Spirit Square, and bring in more shops, restaurants and retail space.

The city of Charlotte is also considering a major renovation and new master plan for Discovery Place across the street, meant to enlarge and update the building.

Ely Portillo
Charlotte Observer
elyportillo@charlotteobserver.com

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CAHA Helps Future Employees Find Jobs

The Charlotte Area Hotel Association has donated $10,000 to the CPCC Foundation to fund scholarships for students in the housekeeping, culinary and maintenance certificate programs. Program participants will complete 4 weeks of classroom and on-site training and immediately go to work in one of our hotels. A huge thank to all the general managers who participated in our fundraiser to make this scholarship program possible.  For more information on the program click here.

 
Hotel general managers attending the last CAHA meeting present Andy Stollmack - CPCC Foundation with a $10,000 check to support scholarships in the hospitality pre-employment certificate program.

Hotel general managers attending the last CAHA meeting present Andy Stollmack - CPCC Foundation with a $10,000 check to support scholarships in the hospitality pre-employment certificate program.

 

Bipartisan HB2 repeal bill filed - but does it have the votes to pass?

RALEIGH - Two Republicans and two Democrats have teamed up on a new proposal to repeal House Bill 2 that also would prohibit cities and counties from regulating bathroom access in private facilities.

Rep. Chuck McGrady, a Hendersonville Republican sponsoring the bill in the state legislature, said during a news conference that the legislature must act before HB2 causes more economic damage. The NCAA is reviewing bids for championship events in North Carolina and could blacklist the state over the law, which has already led the NCAA and others to pull events from the state.

House Bill 186 was the subject of closed-door negotiations between Republicans and Democrats on Wednesday. Its initial sponsors were McGrady; Rep. Marvin Lucas, a Cumberland County Democrat; Rep. Ken Goodman, a Rockingham Democrat, and Rep. Ted Davis, a Wilmington Republican.

It isn’t known yet whether there will be enough support among Republicans in the House and Senate. Later in the evening, five more Republicans signed on to the bill.

McGrady said the bill is a starting point for negotiations, but he said he felt certain he could get enough Republican votes to support it. He added he needs Democratic votes, “if the governor will help me get them.”

“This is not a take-it-or-leave-it bill,” he said. “This is the best starting point we’ve had up until now. It’s a bill that I view as sort of a bipartisan path forward ... We’ve got to forget about special interest groups on the right and the left, and do what’s right for North Carolina.”

But Gov. Roy Cooper – who floated his own compromise last week – voiced concerns about the proposal. “I am concerned that this legislation as written fails the basic test of restoring our reputation, removing discrimination, and bringing jobs and sports back to North Carolina,” the Democratic governor said in a news release Wednesday. “I will keep working with the legislature.”

A spokeswoman for Republican Senate leader Phil Berger said “we typically review and comment on House bills if and when they pass the House.”

The bill would repeal HB2 but would limit the ability of local governments to pass nondiscrimination ordinances – something HB2 banned. Any ordinance could not address access to bathrooms in private facilities like the Charlotte ordinance that prompted HB2 by allowing transgender people to use the bathroom of their gender identity. Towns and cities could, however, regulate bathroom access in facilities they own or operate.

Any local nondiscrimination ordinance could only take effect 90 days after being approved by the town or city council. Opponents of an ordinance could force a voter referendum on it by submitting a petition with the signatures of 10 percent of the voters who voted in the most recent municipal election.

The bill includes a statewide nondiscrimination law that would ban discrimination on the basis of “race, sex, national origin, citizenship, religion, age, veteran status, genetic information, pregnancy, handicap or disability.”

Like the nondiscrimination language in HB2, the protections would not extend to sexual orientation and gender identity. But it would allow UNC system boards of trustees to adopt nondiscrimination policies that go beyond the state law and add protections for other groups of people.

The bill also would create tougher penalties for crimes committed in bathrooms, a provision that was part of the compromise bill introduced by Cooper last week.

Wednesday’s proposal quickly garnered opposition from LGBT advocacy groups and some Democrats in the legislature.

Chris Sgro, executive director of Equality N.C., said the bill would “double down on the harm our state and LGBTQ people have already suffered.”

“I’m certain this will not bring back business or sporting events, and only serves to reinforce the damage,” he said in an email. “We can still fix this – by allowing for the immediate vote on a clean repeal of HB2. Everything else is a distraction from the real issue.”

McGrady, however, said House leaders “don’t have the votes for a straight-up repeal.”

House Democratic Leader Darren Jackson of Knightdale tweeted his opposition to the bill’s provision that would let residents petition against a local nondiscrimination ordinance and have a referendum vote on whether to keep it.

“James Madison: Government should ‘protect the minority of the opulent against the majority.’ We cannot put NDO’s (nondiscrimination ordinances) to a vote of the majority,” Jackson tweeted.

Rep. Grier Martin, a Raleigh Democrat, tweeted that “H186 is in no way, shape or form a repeal of the discrimination of #HB2. Don’t believe anyone who tries to say it is.”

But Rep. Scott Stone, a Charlotte Republican, said the bill would offer a reset on the key issues surrounding HB2.

“It does include the protections for the bathrooms in the sense that it doesn’t allow local municipalities to regulate bathrooms and that’s important to a lot of people,” he said. “This gets us back to where we were before the Charlotte ordinance with regard to the bathrooms.”

Goodman, one of the bill’s Democratic sponsors, says he hopes the proposal could end the state’s economic losses. “Our goal was just to move the ball and start a conversation done in a bipartisan way,” he said. “Our hope is that we can get something that will remove the sanctions from the NCAA and ACC and some of the business people who have stayed away ... that will be a good thing.”

Scott Dupree, executive director of the Greater Raleigh Sports Alliance, had said last week that Cooper’s proposed compromise would put the state “back in the game with the NCAA, the ACC, the NBA and others.”

Asked about the bipartisan proposal filed Wednesday, Dupree said “I don’t know how the NCAA will view this bill, or any of the recent bills, and I’m not going to attempt to speak on their behalf.”

Craig Jarvis, Colin Campbell and Jim Morrill
Charlotte Observer
cjarvis@newsobserver.com


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Marcus Smith says MLS bid to continue

The on again-off again Major League Soccer bid is a go. Speedway Motorsports executive Marcus Smith told CBJ on Monday afternoon his investment group was in the process of completing its application and would submit it to league headquarters by the end of the day.

Smith’s decision follows a long weekend of uncertainty set off by city government opting against a scheduled vote on Jan. 27 to spend $43.75 million of tourism tax revenue to help fund a 20,000-seat soccer stadium. A day earlier — last Thursday — county commissioners approved a proposal to invest $43.75 million of property tax money and provide a 16-acre site assessed at $13 million at no charge to Smith.

Bids are due Jan. 31. MLS plans to select two expansion cities later this year and both new teams will start playing in 2020. Entry fees are $150 million per team.

Smith told CBJ on Monday that MLS granted an extension allowing for additional time for City Council to consider taking a longer look at a possible stadium investment.

“We’re going to go ahead and finish the application and submit that (today) and we’ll follow up with the city,” he said. “And we’ll follow up with the city and answer any questions they might have.”

Last week, Mayor Jennifer Roberts and several members of City Council cited a rushed process, a lack of details on additional costs such as sidewalks and infrastructure near the stadium and higher-ranking community priorities as the basis for their decision to cancel the MLS vote.

On Monday, the lone vocal proponent of the previous MLS pitch on council, James Mitchell, told CBJ he needs to be convinced a second look is warranted.

“I would be very skeptical,” Mitchell, a Democrat, said. “If I didn’t feel at least half of council was open to it (I wouldn’t push for a vote). But if it’s the way it is now, I think my time could be spent working on other things.”

He added, “Hey, I can count (votes).”

Mitchell said beyond timing and concerns over how a stadium would be accepted by the adjacent Elizabeth neighborhood, council colleagues balked over spending $43.75 million and expressed distaste for Marcus Smith’s father, 89-year-old Speedway Motorsports founder and chairman Bruton Smith. The elder Smith spent seven years fighting with Cabarrus County over terms of unpaid incentives and whether county government owed him $80 million.

The case ended in December 2014 when the state Supreme Court opted against hearing an appeal challenging a lower court’s decision dismissing the speedway’s claim.

Marcus Smith is leading the MLS bid, but opponents of the stadium-funding plan have pointed to Bruton Smith’s past feuds with local government and his inclusion on billionaires lists as ample cause for not spending taxpayer money on a soccer stadium.

“One thing I can’t change is the ownership group,” Mitchell told me Monday. “Bruton could be a non-starter (for some on council). I didn’t realize (their animosity towards him).”

Two more expansion clubs will be added at an undetermined future date and at an undetermined cost. Smith and his investors have pledged to pay the entry fee and half of the $175 million stadium construction cost.

MLS deferred all questions about the Charlotte bid to Smith. Charlotte is among 11 cities, including just-added Phoenix, the league invited to submit applications for a team.

There are 22 MLS teams now, including 2017 expansion clubs Atlanta and Minnesota. A second Los Angeles team and Miami are expected to join in 2018. That puts Charlotte in competition for either the 25th or 26th franchise. League executives said last month they will cap the team count at 28.

MLS “really wanted us to stay in the game and they didn’t want the deadline to be the reason Charlotte wasn’t in contention,” Smith said.

There isn’t a set deadline for a city decision on the stadium, he added.

Last week, several days before the mayor and council canceled the MLS vote, Ron Kimble, the recently retired deputy city manager who is working part-time for the city on economic development projects, outlined terms negotiated by city and county government with Smith.

After his presentation, Roberts, citing a shortage of time, declined to allow council members to debate the proposal. Instead, she encouraged council to email questions to Kimble and Marcus Jones, the new city manager. By Thursday, opposition on council and public sentiment combined to kill a planned public hearing and vote scheduled for Friday.

Marcus Smith, during his CBJ interview Monday, mentioned what he believes is a crucial distinction for city government: The ability to tap dedicated tourism tax money limited to projects such as stadiums, arenas, cultural venues and the convention center.

That money “is earmarked to go toward things that benefit travel and tourism,” he said. “You have this money that can’t go to teacher pay or building schools. It’s really about supporting travel and tourism — that’s why (the industry) supported the taxes from the beginning.”

Dena Diorio, Mecklenburg County manager, told me earlier Monday that there is little left for the county to do other than wait and see whether Smith’s bid goes through and the city reconsiders its stance on stadium funding.

Smith also addressed complaints by the owner of the Charlotte Independence, a minor league soccer team that, until Marcus Smith began his MLS talks, had negotiated with the city and county for a smaller $25 million stadium project that would have renovated 81-year-old Memorial Stadium. Eventually, the stadium could have been expanded to 23,000 to 25,000 seats for an MLS club in six to eight years, Independence managing partner Jim McPhilliamy said.

Last week, McPhilliamy warned that a failed MLS bid by Smith could leave Charlotte without any pro soccer. He also said $230,000 worth of architectural renderings paid for by the Independence were used as part of a lead-in to Smith formulating a bid.

“I’ll tell you this: I never saw any renderings from the Independence,” Smith said Monday. “We would never pass off someone else’s work as our own and I don’t think the MLS would want to be in business with somebody who would. I understand frustration and it’s an unfortunate thing.”

City government has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on sports projects over the past 15 years. Commitments include $265 million for the NBA arena opened in 2005; $200 million for the NASCAR Hall of Fame opened in 2010; $87.5 million for renovations at the privately owned NFL stadium; $34 million for improvements at the NBA arena and $8 million (matched by the county) toward a $54 million minor league ballpark opened in 2014.

Author: Erik Spanberg, Charlotte Business Journal 

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City cancels soccer meeting and pulls out of deal; bid could still move forward

Moments after Mecklenburg commissioners approved spending $43.75 million on a new soccer stadium, the city of Charlotte announced Thursday morning that it is canceling a public hearing and vote scheduled Friday – signaling they aren’t ready to subsidize a new stadium.

Marcus Smith of Speedway Motorsports could still move forward with his expansion bid, which is due to Major League Soccer by Jan. 31. But he won’t have $43.75 million in city funds, and he would have to make up the difference himself. The proposed budget for the stadium is $175 million.

Mike Burch, chief strategy officer of SMI, said in an e-mail it’s “TBD” whether the bid will move forward.

Support among City Council for the deal was shaky this week.

There were four council members who said they were likely to vote against, and they weren’t a surprise: Democrats Patsy Kinsey and Claire Fallon, and Republicans Kenny Smith and Ed Driggs.

But when Democrats Julie Eiselt and Al Austin said they were against it, the deal essentially collapsed. The city announced the meeting was canceled during its budget retreat in Raleigh.

“It's been so rushed,” said Mayor Jennifer Roberts, a Democrat. “People feel there are still a lot of unanswered questions. It doesn't mean we don't ever want to do soccer. It’s not responsible to the taxpayers when we don’t have all the answers to their questions.”

Eiselt, an at-large member, said council members “just don’t have the ability right now to thoroughly vet this.”

Vi Lyles, the mayor pro tem, said Marcus Smith “has to make some decisions about his investment and interest.” She said Smith can either go forward now without the city or wait two years for another expected expansion.

Democrat James Mitchell, an at-large member, had been the only council member vocally supporting the proposal.

The city’s $43.75 million would have come from its hotel/motel occupancy tax, which has to be spent on tourism purposes. The county’s $43.75 million would come from its general fund, which can be used for things such as social services.

While the city would have been spending tourism dollars, council members were very hesitant to move forward. They are up for reelection in the fall, and they have been continually assailed by Charlotte Uprising protesters over the city’s reaction to the Keith Scott shooting in September.

They have been focusing on building affordable housing and creating new jobs. Subsidizing a new stadium with a week of debate and consideration would likely have brought an avalanche of criticism.

For the bid to move forward, the county’s approval Thursday was critical. The county owns the land for the stadium as well as the stadium itself.

Marcus Smith and his father Bruton Smith could cover the city’s $43.75 million and hope that council members reimburse them for all or part of that commitment with a vote in a month or two.

By Steve Harrison and Jim Morrill
Charlotte Observer


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MLS Stadium Proposal Summary

Here’s a summary of the MLS Stadium Proposal currently being considered by Charlotte City Council and the Mecklenburg County Commissioners:

  • The city and county each contribute $43.75 million toward construction, totaling half of the $175 million total cost.
     
  • Charlotte’s share would come from hotel/motel occupancy taxes. The county money would come from its capital fund, to which 20 cents of the county property tax rate flows. County officials say the outlay would not affect taxpayers.
     
  • Team owners Bruton Smith and his son Marcus pay $12.5 million toward construction. Mecklenburg County fronts $75 million of the team’s share, reimbursed at $4.26 million annually over 25 years. County officials liken the relationship to a landlord – Mecklenburg County – making improvements for an expected tenant.
     
  • The team commits to use the stadium for 25 years, but can leave after 15 years if the team is not “economically viable.” The county can recover damages if the team leaves sooner than 25 years.
     
  • The team pays $150 million franchise fee to Major League Soccer.
     
  • The team controls and operates the stadium, pays operating costs, keeps concession revenue and keeps ticket revenue for events except those hosted by the city or county. The city gets six days’ free use of the stadium a year and the county 14 days.
     
  • The team and county each pay $150,000 a year into a capital projects fund. The county is responsible for major upgrades of the stadium scheduled for years 11 and 21.
     
  • The team pays for $100,000 study of traffic and parking. The county pays for a $100,000 master plan for neighboring Independence Park, the stadium and surrounding area, and will include a connector from the park to the Little Sugar Creek Greenway in its capital plan.

Bruce Henderson
Charlotte Observer


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How Charlotte-area hotels performed in 2016 with HB2 intact for most of the year

 

STR considers three metrics key to measuring the hotel industry's performance: occupancy, average daily rate (ADR) and revenue per available room (RevPAR). Data shows that hotels in metro Charlotte posted growth across those three measures albeit at a slower rate than both 2015 and 2014.

In 2016, occupancy grew an average of 2%, increasing to 72.2%. That compares to average gains of 2.7% in 2015 and 7.1% in 2014. Meanwhile, ADR rose an average 4.5% to $105.53 last year versus increases of 6.2% and 6.5% in 2015 and 2014, respectively. Also in 2016, gains in RevPAR — rising 6.7% to $76.15 — came in at a lower pace than 9% in 2015 and 14.1% in 2014.

Here is a look at how supply, demand and revenue figures posted by Charlotte-area hotels last year compared to 2015 and 2014:

  • 2016: Supply up 1.1%, demand up 3.1%, revenue up 7.8%
  • 2015: Supply up 0.2%, demand up 2.9%, revenue up 9.2%
  • 2014: Supply up 1.1%, demand up 8.2%, revenue up 15.2%

“The Charlotte market performed at record levels in 2016 even with a slower rate of growth than the previous two years,” STR senior vice president of operations Bobby Bowers said in a statement sent to CBJ. “Slowing growth is common as the comparison base rises each year.

"With occupancy levels well above the national average, it is not surprising to see Charlotte ranked highly on the list for projected openings in 2017. It will be interesting to see how that new supply will affect performance moving forward.”

March was the only month that each of the three metric recorded decreases, ranging from -0.5% to -4.3%. While values for ADR and RevPAR increased every month but March, occupancy drops were tallied in September (-0.6%), November (-2.3%) and December (-1.9%). Declines in occupancy toward the end of the year could be reflected by the Atlantic Coast Conference's decision to move its football championship game from Charlotte's Bank of America Stadium to Orlando. That game was scheduled on Dec. 3 and had been held in the Queen City since 2010.

The 2017 NBA All-Star Game, slated for February, is another lost event to deal a blow to Charlotte hoteliers, restaurateurs, event venue operators and others in the local hospitality industry. They've also voiced concern about future events refusing to consider Charlotte until HB2 is repealed.

As for the nation's hotel industry as a whole, STR said that occupancy remained flat, growing just 0.1% to 65.5%, while ADR rose 3.1% to $123.97 and RevPAR increased 3.2% to $81.19.

“In general, we view 2016 as an average year for the U.S. hotel industry,” said Amanda Hite, STR’s president and CEO, in a press release. “The three key performance metrics hit record highs, but at the same time, RevPAR growth was just below the 30-year U.S. average (+3.3%). Looking ahead in 2017, we expect that growth to decelerate further as supply overtakes demand in terms of growth.”

Supply and demand grew 1.6% and 1.7%, respectively, with both categories also setting records.

Jenna Martin
Digital Producer, Charlotte Business Journal

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