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Davidson development plans include a hotel and new Town Hall

DAVIDSON — The town is seeking plans from developers for the construction of a hotel on the land that now holds Town Hall, and is considering rebuilding Town Hall elsewhere. Plans also include building office space, residences and retail space on the 3.5 acres between South Main and Jackson streets

The Board of Commissioners decided Tuesday night to pursue the estimated $60 million development, called the Catalyst Project. It could include an 80,000-square-foot hotel; 102,500 square feet of residential space; 28,000 square feet of retail space; 12,000 square feet of offices; and 454 parking spaces. Should a new Town Hall be built on the parcel, 25,000 square feet of space would be devoted to town offices and the police and fire departments. The residential space could hold up to 110 condominiums or apartments.

The town plans to do a traffic study on the project’s impact before soliciting developers to build it.  The development will generate an estimated $270,000 in annual revenue for the town, according to Rory Dowling, project manager for the UNC Chapel Hill School of Government. UNC’s School of Government is helping the town with the project’s finance and development.

A solicitation for proposals could be issued in October, and it will take two to three years to build, said Dowling.

Dowling said he has already talked to more than 10 developers.

“We have had tremendous feedback so far about the interest in this project,” he said.

A hotel would be beneficial because of nearby Davidson College, Dowling said

“I think the hotel would bring some electricity to downtown,” said Commissioner Jim Fuller.

Commissioners also decided Tuesday to tear down the Town Hall at 216 South Main St. to make room for the development, saying that developers are interested in building on the section of land where Town Hall is currently located.

A new Town Hall and space for police and fire could be built within the development or somewhere else.

Commissioners also met with the town’s Affordable Housing Steering Committee on Tuesday.

The commissioners directed the committee to look at options for affordable housing, including how to encourage developers to build affordable rental housing and where to build the housing. The committee was directed to meet monthly and bring its ideas back to the commissioners in January.

“If the town wants affordable housing, I don’t think it should be all on the backs of the developers,” Mayor Pro Tem Beth Cashion said Wednesday. She declined to say what alternatives the town might consider, saying it was the committee’s task to find ways to take some of that load off of developers.

The discussion on affordable housing comes just three months after the town settled a lawsuit related to the issue that was filed by developers Artisan Knox and Woodlands at Davidson. Under the settlement, those developers don’t have any future obligations to build affordable housing in their projects. Neither developer will get reimbursed for fees paid under the town’s ordinance.

Davidson is only one of three municipalities in the state that requires developers to build affordable housing in residential projects. The courts have not answered the question of whether affordable housing can be required

Earlier this month Davidson tweaked its ordinance, allowing developers to pay fees into a town fund instead of building affordable housing

The town needs to examine how to use that money on affordable housing, and that will be one of the committee’s jobs, Cashion said.

Commissioners also got a summary of what the planning department’s priorities are for the town.

The priorities included the creation of a rural area plan, for which a request for proposals has been sent to nine consultants; updating the planning ordinance; finding ways to streamline the development review process; and examining geospatial information needs, which includes looking at various mapping software programs

A goal for the planning department includes reducing plat reviews to 14 days and site reviews to 21 days, Planning Director Jason Burdette said.

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