Friday, May 06, 2011

Two Differences About This New Wave of Durham Lodging Construction

Durham, North Carolina is poised for another burst of growth in its number of lodging guest rooms.  With properties currently underway, including the Hampton Inn & Suites opening later this year next to Northgate Mall, the current 7,650 will expand to 8,600+ by mid-decade.

Net older lodging properties that were retired for various reasons over the past two decades, this represents a nearly 200% increase since Durham began to emerge as a visitor destination, spearheaded by formation of a destination marketing organization.

Lodging represents only 2% of all tourism-sector organizations and collectively reaps just 19% of overall visitor spending.  But it is an interesting indicator to watch because new guest rooms are built only in response to a community’s current and future visitor vitality and typically only after demand has been generated to justify them.Residence Inn - McPherson

With far less developable land, the City of Durham may be 79% smaller in population than Raleigh, one of the core cities for the next metro over.  But currently with 43% more lodging guest rooms per 1,000 residents, city to city, Durham may be growing smarter as a destination for visitor-centric economic and cultural development.

Two things are different with this burst of Durham guest room expansion.  One, nearly 300 guest rooms will be located in Downtown Durham, doubling inventory there and exceeding the historic peak in 1970.

More significantly, we’re also seeing the first time a world-wide lodging chain will emulate Durham’s architectural sense of place.  This isn’t the first visitor-related facility to emulate Durham’s sense of place - that status belongs to The Streets at Southpoint and Main Street.

It is no surprise though that George Stanziale is involved with shaping the design of both projects.

The 145-room Residence Inn in the Brightleaf Square District will not only embed the façade of the historic 1926 McPherson Eye, Ear, Nose and Throat Hospital but appears to me to emulate an adapted-reuse-remnant of Erwin Mills that stretches along Ninth Street on the other side of Duke’s East Campus and complement the wonderful adaptive re-use of The Kings Daughters Inn around the corner.

I’m not an architectural expert but I’ve had some experience with place-making.  While I doubt the hotel’s design allays every neighborhood concern, I know from working with chains of all types over the years how unique it is for lodging developers in particular to go to this extent to pick up complementary architectural details in new construction, even though it makes much better sense from a business viewpoint.

Local governments should be setting an example but it seems to me that all too often officials back themselves into a corner with their own construction by getting too far along in the “needs” process before factoring into specifications for architects the importance of scale and design in historic and cultural districts, as evidenced by several recent projects in Durham.

That’s just one reason I’m very heartened by the appointment of Bob Ashley as the executive at Preservation Durham.  Using invaluable private resources like award-winning Endangered Durham, I hope PD, under Bob’s leadership and with the backing of the Durham Heritage Alliance co-anchored with DCVB can persuade local officials to seriously address the need both in the public and private sectors to have Durham thoroughly inventoried both by neighborhood but also by period and type of architecture.

Only when we specify as a community what we truly must preserve can we successfully protect the “built” aspect of our unique sense of place.  To do that we need to also identify what we won’t be able to preserve while ensuring stringent design policies for private developers and local government developments alike.

Trying to protect everything on an ad hoc basis will ultimately just sap our enthusiasm and support for preservation while discouraging good developers.

1 comment:

pattaya apartments said...

Looks like Durnham is doing great in attracting travelers to the area. This will be good for North Carolina's tourism industry.