By: Lightning Reports


"The property owners and architect Tamara Peacock have submitted an ambitious plan to renovate the historic Cedars event space and add a new hotel and condo development around it at the corner of North Church Street and Seventh Avenue West.

In what would be a major new development for downtown Hendersonville, the Cedars Lodge and Spa would contain the historic hotel and also include a new building housing hotel rooms, condos on the upper floors, a 300-person conference room and sports bar. Another building would contain a spa and fitness center with a few smaller retail spaces. The space between the buildings would be designed as a public plaza with planters, seating, a hot tub and pool, according to the plans Peacock has drawn for property owners Tommy and Fran Shipman.

 

The Chariot, before the coronavirus shutdown a busy meeting space used weekly by the Kiwanis, Rotary and Lions clubs and other civic groups, would be removed. A new larger conference space could accommodate those clubs and many other community events, Peacock said. The new development would contain almost 200,000 square feet of building, including the renovated Cedars, which is 15,000 square feet.

"The Cedars has been a historical part of Hendersonville's tourism economy which is now starting to bloom again," the applicants said. "The Cedars Lodge and Spa honors this history by restoring the Cedars but also adding modern amenities that current and future tourist expect. The Chariot has served Hendersonville for years and years but is being outgrown, forcing larger conventions and meetings to meet elsewhere. The new conference hall will give Hendersonville's existing organizations a place to meet and grow, hold larger fundraisers, while attracting new businesses. The project will also be adding much needed housing stock to Hendersonville. The Cedars Lodge and Spa accomplishes all this while respecting and paying homage to the character and aesthetic of Hendersonville."

Built in 1914 by the wife of Southern Railway President J.W. Bailey, the former hotel has been in the Shipman family since 1976. The facility can seat a wedding party of 100 and with the porch and grounds can accommodate 300 guests, Tommy Shipman told the Lightning's Ask Matt column in 2016. A major renovation of the kitchen is also part of the block-long redevelopment plan.

The new project is privately funded by the Shipmans and lenders, Peacock said.

"The family interests align with the public's — preserving the Cedars, maintaining a distinctively Hendersonville architecture, and fulfilling community needs for a larger conference space, a hotel, and additional urban housing," the applicants said.

The location would make it convenient for residents and guests to visit Main Street and the Historic Seventh Avenue District, boosting shops and restaurants downtown, and would encourage walking, reducing the traffic impact.

"The restoration of the Cedars will be celebrated in the new design, serving as a focal point of the guests experiences," the applicants said. "Without a project like this, the Cedar's restoration would be financially improbable and would thus face challenges as it continues to age without a viable financial solution."

The Shipmans could not immediately be reached for comment. The property is in four parcels totaling 1.26 acres valued on the tax books at $1,777,400. The coronavirus's temporary wrecking of the economy has not spooked lenders, Peacock said.

"The people that are doing the financing confirmed that they're still on the table for the loan," Peacock said. Tommy and Fran Shipman and other family members have merged into one corporation for the project, Peacock said. 

The Shipmans "did a feasibility study and that went to the financial people already," she said. "They're using a room rate of around $200 a night, which is a little higher than some of them are charging but we're hoping to capture that market."

One factor that makes the financing work, she said, is the flexibility the condo sales offer. A buyer could buy one room, two or three to make a larger living space. The condominium price would be about $300,000, with the price varying based on square footage and number of rooms. Condominium fees would help pay to operate the complex in the lower-occupancy winter months.

"They've actually dedicated the top floors to condominiums and their logic there is that people might want the privacy of not having transient people in the hallway," Peacock said. The sports bar concept fits with the pool and hot tub features, she said. The design include a retractable skylight so people can enjoy the courtyard year-round.

It's possible, in light of the coronavirus shutdown and "if this thing drags out," that the large conference room might evolve into executive office, she said.

"We're not asking for any variance. We're within the setback and height limitation," she said.

The plans show 269 parking spaces, including 61 off site. (The Shipmans also own the parking lot across Church Street from the Chariot.)

"We're trying to park underneath the building," she said. "There's a lot of discussion about the traffic and whether we need all that parking. People lately don't seem to rent cars as much as they used to." People attending a wedding or convention would likely take an Uber or shuttle from the airport to the hotel, she said, and walk wherever they wanted to go during their stay.

Hendersonville planner Daniel Heyman said the city Development Assistance Department has not yet scheduled a neighborhood compatibility meeting. The public input meetings have been called off for now because of the coronavirus stay-home order and prohibition on gatherings of more than 10 people.

Before the pandemic-related shutdown slowed the process, the Shipmans hoped for a neighborhood compatibility meeting in the next few weeks, Planning Board review in June and City Council approval in July, permitting a groundbreaking in August, Peacock said."