Hotel-condo plan goes forward without condos

A sliver of land beside Time Warner Cable arena that didn't work for a large condo-hotel development is getting a 16-story hotel without the condos.

LodgeWorks of Wichita, Kan., plans to start construction this summer of a 163-suite Hotel Sierra on a third of an acre on the Caldwell Street side of the Charlotte Bobcats home court.

Denny Meikelham, senior vice president of development, said LodgeWorks originally cooperated with Charlotte developer David Furman and his partner on a project that would have combined condos and hotel rooms in a 25-story tower.

When the plan fell through last year due to site restrictions and construction costs, LodgeWorks decided to buy the land from the city and proceed on its own.

“There is so much opportunity in this area, and it's close to everything,” Meikelham said. “This is a forever location. It's only going to get better with the NASCAR Hall of Fame and what's going to happen around it.”

He expects construction of the $35 million project to take about 14 months, which would put the opening in late 2009.

Furman said parking constraints were an issue in his decision to drop condo plans for the site even though 80 of 117 units had been reserved.

As for the Hotel Sierra, “We took our time to design it to make sure it works on the site,” Meikelham said. “The working drawings are almost done.”

John Culbertson of Cardinal Real Estate Partners brokered the land for the city and worked with the hotel developer on approvals.

The process wasn't easy, involving negotiations with the Bobcats and the NBA in addition to resolving utilities, transportation and other issues, he said.

Meikelham said LodgeWorks' building will accommodate parking on four floors above a street-level hotel lobby, bar, breakfast area and check-in desk.

The guest rooms will be on the sixth through 16th floors. Rates haven't been determined, but rooms will be priced competitively with Westin and other luxury market hotels, Meikelham said.

The Hotel Sierra and three other projects in the works will bring the center city hotel room count to 4,443, said Mike Butts, executive director of Visit Charlotte.

Additional rooms enable the city to recruit larger groups for conventions, but even with the new ones coming, he said, “I feel like we need another major convention hotel.”

LodgeWorks, founded in 2000, originated when key members of the current company sold the Residence Inn chain to Marriott in 1987. A year later they started Summerfield Suites Hotels.