The proposal for a downtown hotel and parking garage went through the initial step to becoming a reality on Wednesday as developers met with the Delaware Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) for a concept review of the project’s design. While the conversations were encouraging, there remains plenty of work to be done before the plan will jump to the next step of the development process.
Delaware Hotel Associates has proposed a five-story, 104-room hotel on the northeast corner of East Winter and North Union streets. The hotel would face North Union Street and stretch north from the corner of East Winter Street into what is currently the parking lot for the City of Delaware Justice Center.
It was previously reported the developers were doing business as Fairfield Inn and Suites by Marriott. However, Bill Jacobson, on behalf of the Delaware Hotel Associates team, said Fairfield Inn and Suites is simply the brand that has been chosen to be constructed, should the project ultimately succeed.
Currently, a PNC Bank drive-thru building exists at the location. The bank would be demolished to make way for the hotel. However, the proposal shows a 3,000-square-foot PNC Bank branch would be attached to the south side of the hotel.
In addition to the hotel, the proposal is asking for a four-story, 300-car public parking garage to be constructed directly east and behind the hotel, across from the Delaware County District Library building. Jacobson said the parking garage, while on a separate parcel from the hotel, would still be connected to the hotel and “most likely will ultimately be owned by the city.”
The design of the garage will be similar to the hotel so that there will be no appearance that the two structures are different or separate from each other. Jacobson said the elevation of the garage will be at or below the level of the tree canopy along U.S. Route 23, so that the sightline of downtown for cars traveling along the highway will not be affected by the garage.
The parking garage would also have drive-thru PNC banking access on the east end of the garage with a separate pull-in lane to accommodate customers.
Planning and Community Development Director Dave Efland said the city has not yet committed to any type of financing for the project, but conversations are still ongoing.
Jacobson, who is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University, said that in order to get the hotel building’s look to its currently proposed design, which now includes a cornice and features around the windows to present a more historic feel, the development team studied all surrounding buildings in the area, and the architect took those building features into deep consideration.
HPC member Joe Coleman praised the initial proposal for being much closer in design to the end goal than other hotel proposals that have come to HPC in recent months, referring to the Hampton Inn that has been proposed on Spring Street. However, he added he was concerned that part of the design had a “fake rusticity” to it that seemed to be “incongruous with everything downtown.”
With plenty of conversation being had about several of the details in the architectural design of the hotel, HPC Chairman Mark Hatten commented that, typically, the architect of the proposed building is present to definitively answer any and all questions surrounding design.
Paul Stanton, a member of the Delaware Hotel Associates team, said the architect can be present in future meetings, but with negotiations still ongoing with the City of Delaware and PNC Bank, “until we get (negotiations) locked up, we’re where we’re at.”
Hatten also brought up the issue of a variance being needed for the height of the hotel. He, too, referred to the Hampton Inn proposal on Spring Street, citing the natural elevation advantages that proposal has with the site being further removed from the downtown core and sitting back into a 40-foot hill, with the height of the OWU Student Center behind the hotel still exceeding that of the hotel building.
“Your building,” Hatten said, “will greatly exceed the height of anything around it, other than maybe the U.S. 23 bypass.”
It remains to be seen when a revised proposal will be back in front of HPC. Asked by Efland if the team could be ready for the December meeting, Stanton said the team would wait until they received the city’s memorandum of understanding (MOU) in regard to financing, which he expected to be in two to three weeks, before moving forward.
Brandt Niehaus, a member of the development team, said of the timeframe for being back in front of HPC: “Everybody is in favor of trying to make this project go together … I think everybody wants to go in that direction. But as much as design is a serious piece, let’s assume we can design it the way you guys want it. We still need to know the city wants to do it, so there’s no sense designing it until we have that city (MOU).
He added, “All the suggestions, I think, are fairly doable. There are going to be some things that we can’t do because of what Marriott tells us we can’t do. But we’ve gotten them to agree to a lot of the changes already, so we’ll see where we can go with the rest of it.”
With the December HPC meeting unlikely, the Jan. 23 or Feb. 27 meetings are the most likely dates for a revised proposal to be discussed.
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @ddavis_gazette.