City officials and the Downtown Salisbury, Inc. (DSI) Board of Directors ended exclusive negotiations with Empire Hotel Holdings, LLC, and its development arm, Black Point Investments, LLC, to redevelop the Empire Hotel. The end of the exclusivity means that DSI and the City of Salisbury are available to explore additional redevelopment options for the site.
Salisbury and DSI offered a final proposal to the developer in July in an attempt to conclude negotiations on the Empire project. The proposal was to “enter into a simple option to purchase the property outright with City incentives for completing the project on time.” The proposal, which included a $700,000 purchase price through Thursday, Dec. 31, was not accepted by the developer as offered. The developer offered a counterproposal which was not approved by either the DSI Board of Directors or Salisbury City Council.
“When DSI first announced this Empire Hotel redevelopment project, we understood that there was a lot of work to be done to make the plan viable,” said Salisbury Mayor Karen Alexander. “Over the past few years of negotiations, there have been many positive developments along the way. The property has undergone two Brownfields assessments, market feasibility and parking studies, been listed on the National Register of Historic Places as part of the Salisbury Historic District, listed as a local Historic Landmark, and is now eligible for Historic Tax Credits. The Empire Hotel is positioned quite well now, particularly as a property within an Opportunity Zone, and is more marketable for additional development proposals. ”
"Although the DSI Board of Directors is disappointed the Empire Hotel project will not be moving forward with BPI after many years of hard work and negotiations, we are eager to explore new possibilities for its redevelopment,” said Whitney Wallace Williams, DSI immediate past chairperson. “To that end, we have created an Empire Development Task Force, whose members will guide the search for a new developer with the right fit and vision for our historic downtown. The DSI Board remains focused and committed to the Empire Hotel project and looks forward to the positive impact its redevelopment will have for our city.”
In 2010, Downtown Salisbury, Inc., through a series of public meetings, discussions, and with much public input, published the Downtown Master Plan, which advocated for the expansion of the downtown as a diverse, livable residential district. More recently, the UNC School of Government Development Finance Initiative (DFI) provided a report to City Council this week regarding downtown opportunity site selection, and pre-development analysis for two other city-owned parcels. The presentation highlighted the growing popularity of downtown residential living as noted in Salisbury. In 2016, it was announced that DSI and the developer signed a purchase agreement for the property. The group had tentative plans to convert the former hotel into market-rate apartments, in addition to retail space.
The Empire Hotel was built in 1855 by local attorney Nathaniel Boyden, opening to the public three years later as a “first class hotel” on the heels of the railroad’s arrival in Salisbury. Then known as the Boyden House, the property also housed permanent residents throughout its 100-year operating history. After years of substantial renovations and management turnover, the hotel finally closed its doors in 1963. DSI purchased the hotel in 2007 from the Ragsdale family of Jamestown, N.C., with the intention of stabilizing and developing the property.