Foundation for the Carolinas plans to develop 20-story luxury hotel atop theater

Preliminary rendering for a 20-story hotel tower atop the renovated Carolina Theatre
Preliminary rendering for a 20-story hotel tower atop the renovated Carolina Theatre

Uptown is getting another new hotel, this one with a historic twist: The Foundation for the Carolinas decided Tuesday to lease the air rights above the Carolina Theatre to Valor Hospitality Partners for a 20-story hotel.

The hotel would have about 200 rooms, and Valor would bring in a 4- or 5-star luxury operator. The building would include a rooftop bar and restaurant, 7,000-square-foot ballroom and a spa and fitness center. Including the five-story theater building, the structure would total 25 stories – a major addition for a prominent uptown site.

“This is a great project for Charlotte and a great addition to the ongoing effort toward re-energizing and revitalizing the North Tryon Corridor,” said Laura Smith, executive vice president of Foundation For The Carolinas. “We are thrilled to have facilitated the possibility of a luxury hotel for uptown Charlotte.”

The theater at North Tryon and Sixth streets opened in 1927 and closed in 1978. For the past 37 years, it has sat vacant and decaying. Now, local officials hope that its revival will help spark a growing boom in the northern end of uptown, where the foundation and other groups are drawing up a “vision plan” to help guide redevelopment.

Foundation for the Carolinas is renovating the 36,000-square-foot theater, which is adjacent to its uptown headquarters on North Tryon Street. The foundation plans to start work in mid-2016 on the $35 million overhaul, with plans to build a new lobby and glass-enclosed area in front of the theater’s original facade. The theater renovations and hotel construction would run simultaneously.

Charlotte City Council voted in 2012 to give the theater to the foundation for $1. The foundation has raised more than $27 million from private donors, $4.2 million from the county and $3.7 million worth of real estate from the city for the renovation project. Foundation President Michael Marsicano said the group is more than 90 percent of the way toward its total fundraising goal.

“We are very confident, by the time a shovel’s in the ground we will be there,” he said.

Started in 1958, the Foundation for the Carolinas owns or represents $1.6 billion worth of assets. The foundation works with donors and charitable organizations, encouraging individual and corporate philanthropy.

Valor has developed hotels in the U.S. and internationally, including the ultra-luxury Cape Grace Hotel in Cape Town, South Africa. In Charlotte, the company recently finished a $10 million rebranding and renovation project for the Crowne Plaza Executive Park hotel near Interstate 77 and Tyvola Road.

“We are very proud to have been chosen as the developer for this incredibly exciting project” said Euan McGlashan, Valor’s managing partner. “We actually believe Charlotte as a city is one of the most important, progressive, forward-thinking cities in the country right now.”

McGlashan said the company is in talks with a hotel brand for the site, and it hopes to announce the brand early next year.

The foundation said the hotel would generate an estimated $1.4 million annually for local governments in hotel room taxes, property taxes and sales taxes. The foundation will not have a financial stake in the hotel, but the lease payments will provide a revenue stream to help offset operating costs for the theater, which is expected to run an annual deficit of $250,000 to $350,000.

“We think this will come close to (covering) that,” said Smith.

The whole collection of buildings, including the foundation’s headquarters, theater and hotel, will be called Belk Place. Members of the Belk family donated $8 million for the project last year.

Ely Portillo: 704-358-5041, @ESPortillo