A “nuisance” hotel in Wilmington could turn into small apartments
WILMINGTON –– A California investment group is considering turning a Market Street hotel notorious for drugs and prostitution into a cheap long-term rental option.
The Wilmington City Planning Commission is considering a zoning change to convert the 224-room Budgetel Inn to a 234-unit apartment complex on Wednesday.
The project provides for a rezoning of the approximately 7.7 acre area from its current neighborhood, a regional business, to the high density multi-family residential neighborhood.
Units would opt for the market rate, according to planning commission documents, based on their size, amenities, and proximity to retail, food and public transportation.
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Behind the project is Vivo Living, an investment group that converts short-term homes into long-term rentals. Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, it has become increasingly common for developers to purchase properties from the struggling hospitality industry to take advantage of the growing demand for affordable housing.
Vivo Living now has 10 multi-family projects in the United States, Arizona, Colorado, Indiana, Nebraska, Texas, Utah and the Carolinas. The company takes credit for finding solutions to the affordable housing crisis.
Design Solutions, local land use consulting firm Cindee Wolf, represents the current owner. The app suggests that this development would serve as a local solution to a growing and disturbing trend across the country: hotels built with rare guests.
Rooms at the Budgetel currently run $ 81 a night Sunday through Thursday or $ 185 Friday and Saturday, depending on online prices.
Prior to becoming the Budgetel Inn, the hotel underwent several rebranding and was known as the Holiday Inn Motel as early as 1975, according to city findings. Ownership records show that the land has been owned by Hotel Plus, LLC since 2004.
The hotel has a history of drug seizures and criminal arrests that led District Attorney Ben David to send a letter to Budgetel, along with five other Market Street hotels, in 2015 demanding that businesses clean up their acts or risks losing their property under the Public Nuisance Act. .
Budgetel accepted a consent judgment in 2016 with the New Hanover County District Attorney’s Office and could no longer rent to the premises. There was also a need to strengthen security and allow law enforcement to access their books at all times, among a long list of other stipulations.
The following year, an 18-year-old man was arrested at the hotel for allegedly promoting the prostitution of a 17-year-old girl, driving her to clients and taking some of the money he was making. she had received for the sexual acts, according to WECT.
Months later, the outlet reported that a guest discovered a dirty needle and condoms under his bed, along with brown stains and burn marks on the blankets, after previously spending a night in the bedroom.
Budgetel Inns & Suites has more than 45 properties in the United States, including three in North Carolina. The Raleigh branch has repeatedly made headlines for criminal activity, including a shooting in April and five overdoses reported in the last half of 2019.
City of Wilmington planning staff recommend approval of the necessary rezoning for a change in small apartments.
The redevelopment would maintain the existing 51,500-square-foot and 46,800-square-foot two-story buildings, infrastructure, utilities and amenities, and would renovate each room into an “efficient style” one-bed apartment, between 278 and 352 -square feet. The design combines living room and bedroom and has a bathroom.
The units are expected to attract a young workforce, under 30, and retirees on a tight budget, depending on rezoning demand.
‘Efficiency’ style apartments are often considered ‘accessible naturally affordable’ due to their small size, ‘says the applicant.
The hotel lobby and former dining area, totaling 10,500 square feet, would be converted into the new apartment complex office and amenity area.
Vivo Living agrees to designate 23 units, 10% of the complex, as workforce housing for at least 10 years under the current proposal, although staff recommend that the plans be approved provided the period be extended to 15 years.
The units should be considered affordable for households earning 65% of the region’s median income, as defined by census data of high rents from the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development. For Wilmington, the High HOME rent limit is $ 754 for energy efficient apartments.
Staff also recommend approval with the proviso that labor housing units are distributed throughout the site, not in the center of a location, and are held to the same standards as market-priced units. , from size to interior finishes and equipment.
To enable the conversion of a hotel into an apartment complex, 1.5 parking spaces per room are required according to the land use planning code, i.e. a minimum of 351 spaces. However, the applicant offers 274 places.
The applicant requests an exception since the code does not specify the parking ratios for studios or functional apartments. It also includes housing for the workforce. Under the new land code adopted –– which does not come into effect until December –– developers are offered reduced parking standards as an incentive to create housing for the workforce.
The site is also near an existing Wave Transit stop on Market Street and staff suggest the project is a chance to increase ridership for the system, which in recent years has struggled to provide service. quality with its current financial situation.
The planning meeting begins at 6 p.m. in the City Hall Council Chamber, located at 102 North 3rd Street. The meeting is also webcast.
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