Downtown Salisbury, Inc. (DSI) and the Empire Redevelopment Task Force (ERTF) have unanimously voted to move forward with a boutique hotel concept with residential and commercial mixed-use for the redevelopment of the former Empire Hotel, awarding the development bid to Charlotte-based developer, Brett Krueger, and his affiliate, Howard Kosofsky.
The Empire Redevelopment Task Force launched its Request for Proposal (RFP) in September 2020. Over the past year, the Task Force has engaged in an extensive and thorough evaluation process in its efforts to select a developer and project design that is the most economically-viable option for Downtown Salisbury. The Task Force released its evaluation timeline for public review. See Enclosure.
Krueger has over 25 years of experience in construction, residential, and commercial development. He served as VP of Operations for MRK Investments where he conceptualized and led the development of nationally recognized boutique hotels to include The Ivey’s Hotel in uptown Charlotte and The Windsor Hotel in Asheville.
Krueger intends for the luxury boutique hotel to be decorated with historic items original to Salisbury, to include a blend of boutique and antique design where the past meets modern convenience. He plans to solicit the public for assistance with the acquisition of “all things Salisbury from past, current, to future.”
Krueger’s vision for the Empire Hotel will also include a substantial number of apartments, ranging from one- to three-bedroom units, as well as a full-service spa, gym, and health club. The design includes approximately 7,000 square feet of retail space and 6,000 square feet for a restaurant and upscale historic hotel bar. He intends to restore the historic Empire ballroom with the intended use for a public convention space.
Downtown Salisbury (DSI), Krueger, and the City of Salisbury are expected to enter into a preliminary development agreement, which will outline any outstanding issues that will need be resolved prior to a final decision or sale. Still, Krueger intends to begin engaging the local community in the Empire’s development and has already begun the process of reaching out to local architects, contractors, investors, historians, and others with the goal of creating a community project that the local community will be proud of and invested in.
Whitney Wallace Williams, Chair of the Empire Redevelopment Task Force, stated, “This was not an easy process or decision for DSI or our Task Force. The Empire is a beast of a project but one that has the potential and capacity to transform our downtown and the Rowan County experience for decades to come. I express my gratitude to all developers for their excellent submissions, particularly developers local to our community. I commend the Empire Redevelopment Task Force members for their objectivity, expertise, collaboration, and passion devoted to this critical piece of Salisbury’s downtown and future.”
DSI Board Chair, Gianni Moscardini, stated, “Our team has worked passionately throughout this year, looking at this project from 20,000 feet elevation to evaluate the present and future economic and historic impact. I thank all of the developers involved in the process for their patience and understanding, and Whitney [Wallace Williams] for her leadership.”
“The Task Force is very pleased to have chosen an experienced developer with tremendous vision committed to redeveloping this historic community asset,” said Salisbury Mayor Karen Kirks Alexander. “Our downtown is the signature of our community and an economic generator. We look forward to taking the next steps with the chosen developer and his assembled team to make his vision a reality in downtown Salisbury.”
Members of DSI and ERTF
Empire Redevelopment Task Force
Whitney Wallace Williams (Chair), downtown property owner, attorney, Immediate Past Chair of DSI; Gianni Moscardini, downtown business owner and Chair of Downtown Salisbury, Inc. (DSI); Hannah Jacobson, City of Salisbury Development Director; Karen Alexander, Mayor and architect; Brian Miller, City Councilman and banker; Janine Evans-Davis, former educator, art museum developer and fundraiser; Edward Norvell, attorney and philanthropist; Samantha Haspel, downtown property owner and DSI board member; Davis Cooke, downtown business owner and DSI board member; Luke Fisher, commercial and residential developer; Mark Lewis, DSI Vice Chair and banker; Tonyan Schofield, downtown business owner; James Meacham, CEO of Convention Visitors’ Bureau, Rowan County; Rod Crider, President of Economic Development Commission for Rowan County; Elaine Spalding, President of Chamber of Commerce, Rowan County; and Sada Stewart, Executive Director of Historic Salisbury Foundation.
Gianni Moscardini (Chair), Mark Lewis (Vice Chair), Dileika Wilson Ballard (Secretary), Stan Jordan (Treasurer), Whitney Wallace Williams (Immediate Past Chair), Alissa Redmond, Bob Potter, Brian Miller, Carrie Bardinas, Davis Cooke, Dick Huffman, Elaine Spalding, Eric Phillips, Greg Shields, Hannah Jacobson, James Meacham, James Faust, Jayne Helms, Judy Klusman, Kristen Trexler, Rod Crider, Sada Troutman, Samantha Haspel, Tonyan Schofield, Zack Kyle
Latoya Price (Interim Executive Director), Mel Drye (Administrative Specialist)
Empire Redevelopment Task Force | Developer Evaluation Timeline
- September 2020: Establish Task Force, Press Release, Develop and Distribute RFP, Develop Empire Website with building history and developer resources (Environmental Site Assessment (Phase I and II), building floor plans, downtown average rental rates, post-COVID pre-development analysis)
- October 2020: Developed Proposal Review Criteria; Nov. 2. Deadline for submissions
- November 2020: Receipt of Proposals (3); In-Person ERTF Review of Developer Proposals; Letters developed and sent to all Developers by ERTF with specified follow-up questions; Receipt of Developers’ Written Responses.
- December 2020: Zoom Interviews with ERTF and All 3 Developers; Follow up ERTF Meeting to Discuss Interviews; Assignment of ERTF Subcommittee to perform a deep-dive on developers and proposals.
- December 2020 - January 2021: Private dinners with all 3 Developer Groups for discussions regarding proposals, developer resources, and best use of the property.
- February – March 2021: Two developer groups merged; Task Force granted both developer groups 90 day due diligence period (through June 7, 2021) to respond to detailed inquiries by ERTF to include questions regarding hotel data and project design, construction timeline, hotel and building management plan, third party agreements, and funding and public support considerations.
- March – June 2021: Worked with developer groups to answer any questions and to provide any resources needed. In April, one of the merged developer groups withdrew from consideration.
- June 2021: In-person ERTF meeting to discuss developer groups’ due diligence responses; ERTF began to complete evaluation criteria.
- July 2021: To evaluate the financial feasibility of both development proposals, ERTF contracted with experienced Development Advisors with the UNC School of Government, i.e. Development Finance Initiative (DFI), to perform a financial “stress test” on the financial models proposed by both developer groups to determine if each’s plan was economically viable. Provided DFI with necessary data and contacts to support its analysis.
- August 2021: Received a preliminary financial feasibility analysis from DFI; Aided DFI to complete its evaluation by putting DFI in touch with both developer groups to respond to specific remaining questions.
- September 2021: Unanimous determination by Task Force that based upon the extensive due diligence of the Empire Redevelopment Task Force, in combination with the financial feasibility analysis as performed by DFI, the Task Force unanimously recommends to DSI to pursue the boutique hotel concept with residential and commercial mixed-use as the most economically viable and prosperity-generating option for Downtown Salisbury.