North Carolina: A state of Southern hospitality

From the Tarheels to Tobacco Road, the Wright Brothers (first in flight!) in the Outer Banks, to the Great Smoky and Blue Ridge Mountains, North Carolina has a rich history of being the first, the biggest, or the best. Residents of North Carolina are ready to host visitors with traditional southern hospitality and offer you some good ol’ shrimp and grits and BBQ (slow cooked pulled pork with a vinegar-based sauce, with a little ketchup added if you’re talking Lexington style rather than Eastern NC style.) Be sure to save room for the Krispy Kreme doughnuts, and of course there’s sweet iced tea to wash it all down.

The combination of historic landmarks, a thriving research and development zone, top-notch universities, rolling mountains, natural beaches, thriving tourism, and growing population make North Carolina a hot zone for the hospitality industry. Oh, and don’t forget to say congratulations to the 2017 NCAA men’s basketball champions, the University of North Carolina.

THE RESEARCH TRIANGLE

(Raleigh, Durham & Chapel Hill)

The Research Triangle, simply known locally as the Triangle, is anchored by three cities and their respective research universities: The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Duke University in Durham, and NC State University in the state capital of Raleigh. In addition to boasting some of the nation’s best universities, the Triangle is home to some of the largest tech and research companies, including IBM, Cisco Systems, Red Hat, GlaxoSmithKline, Merck & Co., Novo Nordisk, and Pfizer. With more than 2 million residents, the Triangle area is expanding everything from schools, roads, and housing, and the hospitality industry is in full bloom. 

The Raleigh News and Observer highlighted the continuing growth in the Raleigh area, saying it is poised for a “hotel boom in 2017.” The N&O reports that “Wake County is about to experience a hotel boom on a scale that hasn’t been seen in nearly two decades.” And, according to the Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitors Bureau, at least 15 projects are either under construction or in the planning process for 2017-18 alone.

State View Hotel, a joint venture between Concord Eastridge of Arlington, Virginia, and Noble Investment Group of Atlanta, is a 156-room Marriott Autograph Collection hotel and full-service conference center. The hotel will rest on a 10-acre site overlooking Lake Raleigh, including an outdoor pool, restaurant, and bar with 9,000 sq.ft of meeting room space. It is scheduled to open summer 2017.

North Carolina

The StateView hotel, Autograph Collection (Image courtesy: Marriott International, All rights reserved)

A Residence Inn, in the heart of downtown Raleigh, is under development by Summit Hospitality. This hotel will have 176 rooms and include street-level retail and an expansive rooftop lounge. Construction is currently underway, and it is expected to open in June of this year.

A Hilton Garden Inn/Homewood Suites is planned for 200 W. Davie Street in Raleigh. This 259-room, 13-story hotel is a project of CN Hotels, Inc., of Greensboro, NC. Site work is scheduled to begin at the end of this year, with a projected opening in August 2018.

Courtyard by Marriott is another hotel slated for the downtown Raleigh area. A 12-story hotel with 192 rooms is scheduled to break ground in the fall of 2018. The project is headed by Winwood Hospitality of Raleigh and will also include a street-level bar and café and a pool above a structured parking lot.

Wake County’s hotel occupancy rate rose above 70 percent last year, compared to 65.5 percent nationwide. Loren Gold, executive vice president of the Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitors Bureau, believes that this number would have been higher if not for House Bill 2, which restricted access to transgender individuals. The recent repeal of HB2 can only create additional opportunities for hotel occupancy rates throughout all of North Carolina.

CHARLOTTE

Charlotte, nicknamed the Queen City, is the nation’s second largest financial center, according to Forbes, effectively making it the banking capital of the South. Several international bank conglomerates call downtown Charlotte home, and leading the way is Bank of America, followed by Wells Fargo & Company and BB&T Corp. But it’s not all bankers and finance: Charlotte is also home to the Carolina Panthers (NFL), Charlotte Hornets (NBA), and the NASCAR Hall of Fame. With a mix of old and contemporary South, Charlotte also has a robust hospitality industry and a couple of notable developments.

Charlotte Inter Continental Hotel

The Charlotte InterContinental Hotel is being designed in conjunction with the renovation of the historic Carolina Theater in a project headed by the Foundation for the Carolinas, one of the largest community foundations in the U.S. {Image Courtesy: Valor Hospitality Partners}

The flagship future project in Charlotte is the construction of an InterContinental Hotel. The hotel is being designed in conjunction with the renovation of the historic Carolina Theater, with the hotel actually rising from the top of the five-story theater. The projected is headed by the Foundation for the Carolinas, one of the largest community foundations in the U.S., which is dedicated to “the collective strength of communities.” Valor Hospitality Partners, after an extensive RFP process, was granted an air rights lease for construction of the hotel. It’s quite a coup, but Euan McGlashan, managing partner and co-founder of Valor, says “We already have a hotel in Charlotte that we operate [the Crowne Plaza], and we slowly got shortlisted until we got this project.” The proposed InterContinental “sits on an A-plus location, next to Bank of America, and will be a 22-story building, which will have some of best views in the city.” McGlashan says the Carolina Theater will be “one of the most technologically advanced theaters in the country.” He also states that renovations may begin within three months and the hotel construction will begin six months thereafter. The hotel is scheduled to open in early 2019.

WAKE COUNTY IS ABOUT TO EXPERIENCE A HOTEL BOOM ON A SCALE THAT HASN’T BEEN SEEN IN NEARLY TWO DECADES.

Another notable project is a Grand Bohemian Hotel, being launched by Kessler Collection of Florida, which purchased a .60-acre site for $3 million. The Grand Bohemian is slated to have 254 rooms adjacent to the Carillon building. It will be a full-service hotel, including nine floors of guest rooms, four levels of lobby and restaurants, a grand ballroom, spa and fitness center, and a two-level parking garage.

ASHEVILLE

Asheville is hot! Located in Western Carolina’s blue ridge mountains and anchored by the Biltmore Estate, America’s largest privately owned house, built by George Washington Vanderbilt between 1889 and 1895, Asheville is a hidden gem within the state but well known to Carolinians. Residents, UNC Asheville students, and visitors alike enjoy the majestic scenery, outdoor activities such as hiking and whitewater rafting, and the city’s popular downtown art district. It’s no small wonder that over the past ten years, the Asheville Citizen-Times reports $187 million has been spent on hotel construction alone, and tourist spending was $1.7 billion in 2016. Not bad for North Carolina’s 11th largest city.

The largest project currently under development is Downtown Asheville’s $46 million Hotel Arras, by John McKibbon of McKibbon Hospitality and Glenn W. Wilcox, Sr., chairman and president of Tower Associates. The two are also partnering on the AC Hotel by Marriott, a lifestyle hotel with 132 guestrooms, 2,000 square feet of meeting space, a library with free Wi-Fi, a lounge, a rooftop bar, and a salon. It is slated to open in July.

A Home2 Suites Hilton is planned for Biltmore Station, which is only steps away from Biltmore Village. News 13 WLOS reports that Vic Patel, a Washington, D.C. developer who is building the hotel, said, “We chose Asheville because of the occupancy numbers.”

A 76-room LaQuinta Inn and Suites recently got approval from the city’s planning and zoning commission on April 5, and a month earlier the zoning commission approved an 117-room Baymont Hotel.
Asheville is hot and the hotels just keep coming.

THE OUTER BANKS
Charlotte Waterpark

The $46 million H2OBX Waterpark is slated to open this summer, with more than 30 water slides, a pool, and an “adventure river” on 80 acres. {Image Courtesy: Steve Serge}

The Wright Brothers were the first in flight in America, and their first test flight took place on the barrier islands of the North Carolina coast known as the Outer Banks (OBX.) Here, the beaches, water sports, fishing, and wild mustangs (descendants of Spanish mustangs that arrived almost 500 years ago) make this a popular summer and weekend getaway for baby boomers, gen Xers and millennials alike. In 2015, a National Park Service report showed that 2.7 million people visited the Outer Banks spending more than $179 million. However, OBX has not had any significant hotel construction in the past three decades, the last being a Quality Inn in 1989. That is slowly starting to change.

THE OUTER BANKS OF NORTH CAROLINA HAS NOT HAD ANY SIGNIFICANT HOTEL CONSTRUCTION IN THE PAST THREE DECADES, THE LAST BEING A QUALITY INN IN 1989. THAT IS STARTING TO CHANGE.

In Kill Devil Hills (yes, that is the town’s name), the Board of Commissioners “unanimously approved a site plan for a proposed new 152-room hotel,” as reported by the Outer Banks Sentinel. First Flight Hotel, LLC, proposes to build a new Towne Place Suites by Marriott. The pet-friendly hotel will be an 85,054-square-foot building featuring an indoor swimming pool, full kitchens, and parking spaces. They are currently awaiting building permits.

A $46 million waterpark, H2OBX Waterpark, is slated to open this summer. The park rests on 80 acres in Powells Point and will have more than 30 waterslides, a wave pool, and a floating “adventure river.” Developers and city officials are hopeful that this water park will attract additional businesses such as hotels, restaurants, and other tourism-related industries.

By Jerry Canada