Davidson hotel developers push back against fears over new project near school

Rendering of planned hotel in Davidson.
Rendering of planned hotel in Davidson.

A new hotel planned on a prominent vacant site in Davidson has stirred up unexpectedly fierce opposition, and now the project’s developers and local officials are pushing back against those who say it could endanger children.

The four-story, 115-room Hyatt Place Hotel would be at Davidson Gateway Drive and Griffith Street, near Exit 30 on Interstate 77. The group Save Davidson, which is opposing several major local developments, claims its location next to the Community School of Davidson could attract human traffickers and sex criminals, as well as put children in harm’s way if the hotel draws gun crime.

“I was kind of surprised by the fear they're trying to bring up,” said Nish Patel, president of hotel operator Beacon Investment Management Group. His company operated the nearby Homewood Suites for more than nine years without serious trouble, Patel said.

“We have a vested interest in the community,” said Patel. “We haven’t had any issues.”

Police statistics provided by the developers show there have been only three arrests at the Homewood Suites over the past five years, one each for assault, trespassing and driving with a license revoked. Patel also pointed to numerous other examples of hotels near schools, such as a Hilton Garden Inn and TownePlace Suites by Marriott across the street from Chesterbrook Academy Preschool in Mooresville.

Some neighbors haven’t been convinced. There’s been a rising tide of opposition to new developments in Davidson, fueled by a fight against Davidson’s plans to sell 19 acres of publicly owned land on Beaty Street for a mixed-use development.

“You don’t know who’s staying at the hotel,” said Kaneisha Gaston, one of the opponents, ahead of a recent Davidson Town Board meeting on the proposal.

Davidson’s business community appears to be lining up behind the new hotel, with the town board set to vote soon on the project. Estimates show it would bring about $220,000 a year in taxes, along with about 35 jobs.

"The proposed Hyatt Place Hotel would fill a very vital need in our Lake Norman community for meeting space, visitor housing, and retail space in Davidson,” said Bill Russell, president of the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce. “The proposed location near the interstate but within walking distance of downtown Davidson and local businesses and restaurants is a wonderful asset.”

He called suggestions that the hotel would stimulate illegal activity “completely baseless.”

Sally Ashworth, executive director of Visit Lake Norman, said the hotel would have less of an impact on traffic than the office buildings that the land is currently zoned to accommodate.

“Typically, hotels experience arrivals after 6 p.m. on weekdays, which is after school activities are over. So, there should be relatively little impact in the afternoons on school traffic,” said Ashworth. “In the mornings, not only do people leave at different times for work, but the new hotel will likely have a corporate shuttle to take people to the various corporate headquarters, which will eliminate many of the hotel clients’ cars from being on the road during school drop-off.”

Patel said the developers have lowered the hotel’s height from six stories to four stories and agreed to replant a buffer of trees to shield the property from the adjacent neighborhood.

Ely Portillo: 704-358-5041, @ESPortillo