MONTPELIER — The developer recently brought on board for the 1 Taylor St. project at the Carr Lot has offered to buy the Capitol Plaza Hotel and Conference Center.
Larry Williams, a principal with Redstone, told members of the Carr Lot Design Committee on Monday that his firm has offered to buy the hotel from the Bashara family. Williams’ Burlington-based commercial real estate development company is working with the city to build a multimodal transit center and welcome center topped with several floors of privately owned development that could include a hotel.
“We have started talking to them, I can assure you,” said Williams when a member of the committee asked whether Redstone had reached out to the hotel’s owners, who have voiced concern about a competing hotel overlooking their property.
Redstone is hoping to convince the owners of the Capitol Plaza that another hotel in the city’s core would be good for their business as well, said Williams, but they are not persuaded so far.
“We’re going to open the door to possibility, but we can’t make them walk through it,” Williams said of concerns raised not only by the Basharas but other community stakeholders about what a large new hotel could do to existing lodging establishments, in addition to Capitol Plaza. “We can give them a lot more evidence than they have now,” he said.
Williams said Tuesday he had not wanted to discuss the Redstone offer in the newspaper and had been unaware a member of the media was at Monday’s meeting. He said in a brief phone interview, “I thought it was a little more confidential than that.”
“I feel badly,” Williams said. “We did meet with them, and we are interested in their hotel. It would solve a lot of obstacles that are potentially an issue for us.”
The Bashara family issued a statement Tuesday afternoon about the news that Redstone had approached them about possibly buying the hotel.
The statement by Brian Cain, hotel and sales director at Capitol Plaza, said: “At the request of Redstone, we had a preliminary meeting between two potential neighbors. There was no formal offer, only an inquiry to purchase the Capitol Plaza and no follow-up on that topic. The Capitol Plaza is not in support of a chain hotel as a neighbor and competitor and will continue to protect our property for the benefit of our business, tenants and employees.”
The statement went on, “We ARE in support of the original concept of the multimodal transit center which should maximize public use of that space for such things as the farmers market, downtown housing or commercial space. We are also in favor of the continuation of the bike path, but only if it works for all parties involved and has limited impact on how we need to provide for our hotel guests and clients.”
“We are NOT in support of a hotel chain being considered in the Carr Lot for reasons of sustainability and do not think it is appropriate to use federal and city tax money for that type of development,” the statement continues. “We are strongly concerned with the lack of parking at that site and the impact it would put on our parking lot, our clients and employees. We also know as hoteliers that ‘lobby space is not public space,’ and to list a hotel lobby in a proposal as a public gathering space is unrealistic.”
The statement concludes: “Montpelier is the hometown for four generations of our family. We want the Carr Lot to succeed and offer the city of Montpelier best wishes in this time of expansion. We respectfully ask that its decisions are based on the good of all its citizens and existing downtown businesses.”
The statement is signed by the Fred and Mary Bashara family.
The family’s concerns about a new 80-room hotel, plus the fact that rights of way are needed from the Basharas for the planned bike path through the site, would make acquiring their hotel a boon for the new development, Williams said.
The hotel issue came up when the Carr Lot Design Committee was discussing the four public sessions that Redstone and its architectural firm, Gossens Bachman Architects, are planning.
“There’s more than one way to get things done. You just have to go down more than one road at once,” Williams said, adding that a purchase would resolve the competition concerns and the issues related to the bike path rights of way.
“I think you could turn that property into a gem for downtown Montpelier,” he said. “If you totally redid that property, it might change the metric for another hotel.”
There was instant interest among the committee members and officials present, including Mayor John Hollar. When pressed, Williams said of his discussions with the Basharas, “They didn’t say no. They didn’t say yes, either. I think it gives us the opportunity to keep talking.”
The public process with the city and Redstone will get underway in early May. Details on the four sessions, which will run through mid-July on separate evenings, are to be coming this week.
The city purchased the once-contaminated Carr Lot this winter and has several federal grants for the project. The use for the additional privately owned floors is yet to be determined and will be part of the public process and at the City Council level.
“When do we roll in the 500-pound gorilla in the room?” architect Gregg Gossens asked of the hotel concept, which is Redstone’s preference for the development it will own on the upper levels of the building. Other possibilities include residences and office space.
Williams said the hotel concept will need to be put on the table sooner rather than later. He told the committee this week that there are “really only three companies in the country that do acceptable hotel feasibility studies, and we’re talking to two of them and we would need to get going on that.”
Committee member Elizabeth Robechek, who asked about inviting people into the process who have voiced concerns already, said, “One thing I’ve pulled from this last month is people have very strong feelings about that particular use. They’re either for (a hotel) or against it. … The town could decide this is the greatest thing since sliced bread.”
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