News Column

Thinking outside the box with the Prince Charles Hotel

July 22, 2014

By Gregory Phillips, The Fayetteville Observer, N.C.



July 22--The Prince Charles Hotel downtown was yanked off the auction block in May amid rumors that investors were drafting a proposal for the site.

Almost two months later, no plans for the crumbling landmark have been announced, nor has the auction been rescheduled. But downtown advocates are crossing their fingers that someone has a plan to save the historic building.

The Prince Charles has had successful spells, but they have always ended in sale, auction or bankruptcy. Whether it faces restoration or demolition, new owners are looking at a large investment in the property. So why not think big? Here are six possibilities for the site, some using the hotel building, and some assuming it is demolished and something built on the 3-acre site.

Mixed use: The sensible option. The 300 Hay project showed downtown can support high-end condominiums. Pack the upper floors with a mix of residential and office space and put retail on the ground floor. The Prince Charles has housed successful pubs and clubs -- Charley's and Babe's among them -- in the past.

Art museum: The grand plans for a state-of-the-art museum in Festival Park flamed out a few years back, taking the existing museum on Stamper Road with it. What better place for an art museum than one of downtown's most recognizable historic structures? Sure, even with a gallery and working areas, a museum would not need the whole space. Rent out some offices and upscale residences on the upper floors. What trendier place could there be to live and work than above an art gallery?

Government offices: The judges want the county administrative offices out of the fifth floor of the Cumberland County Courthouse because they say they need the space. If the county has to renovate or build something anyway, why not the Prince Charles? Buy it on the cheap, weatherproof the upper floors and renovate them as time and budgets permit. The county did the same thing with the E. Newton Smith Center. If the city has space needs, bring them along. State and federal agencies also rent space from the county. Offer them units at the Prince Charles.

Performing arts center: The Arts Council conducted a survey in March to get feedback on the possibility of a performing arts center. Look to Durham Performing Arts Center, left, to see how such a venue can be a hit in downtown. The Prince Charles site is only a couple of blocks from ample parking in the scarcely used parking deck. A stylish modern design could provide an eye-catching downtown landmark to replace the Prince Charles and perhaps even mimic elements of the hotel's facade in a nod to history.

Recreation center: There is momentum among City Council members to improve Fayetteville's recreation offerings. You want people to come downtown? Take the plans for a 600,000-square-foot aquatic center with pool, senior center and walking track, slap it right there on Hay Street and watch the people come downtown. Some creative architecture could give the district an eye-catching centerpiece.

A skyscraper: It's often said Fayetteville does not have a skyline commensurate with its status as a city. Greensboro and Winston-Salem both have skylines. It's time to play catch-up. The Prince Charles site could accommodate the footprint of the state's tallest building, the 871-foot Bank of America Corporate Center in Charlotte, right.

Who will build it? Simple. Tempt an oil-rich developer from Dubai to front the construction costs, then fill it with military contractors. Stick a penthouse on top and rent it to Fayetteville's most famous export (J. Cole, natch). Boom. Problem solved.

Staff writer Gregory Phillips can be reached at phillipsg@fayobserver.com or 486-3596.

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(c)2014 The Fayetteville Observer (Fayetteville, N.C.)

Visit The Fayetteville Observer (Fayetteville, N.C.) at www.fayobserver.com

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Source: Fayetteville Observer (NC)


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