$18.5M Cherry Hotel project on track

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The plan to restore the shuttered Cherry Hotel to its former glory is official thanks to action taken Thursday by the Wilson City Council.

“When we came here two years ago and made a decision to participate in the (request for proposals), it was a huge commitment of our time and financial resources,” said Paul Drummond, managing partner of development group Cherry Hotel LLC. “We didn’t do it blindly, but we sat down with the city manager and staff because we didn’t want to commit resources to a town if there was not a broader plan.”

Drummond told the city council after approving an agreement to sell the property to the developers for $1 in exchange for investing $18.5 million in the restoration that he and his partners have been impressed with city personnel and the larger community.

“Our group is incredibly excited to be a part of this project and the overall redevelopment efforts in downtown,” he said.

According to the agreement, work will begin around the end of January and take roughly a year to create 100 hotel rooms, a reception area, bar, ballroom and other amenities. The city also agreed to reimburse the developers for environmental remediation, convert Lodge Street adjacent to the hotel into a two-way street and provide at least 65 nearby parking spaces for the hotel in exchange for creating at least 19 jobs as well as expecting 60 to 125 guests a night.

Also during the meeting, officials approved a $119,250 incentive package spread out over four years — county commissioners approved the same deal during a Nov. 5 meeting — for Criticality LLC. The industrial hemp processor is investing $17.2 million to locate at 1900 Stantonsburg Road, creating 88 jobs with an average salary of $44,000.

What the council did not do was approve a $422,000 allocation to the Rocky Mount-Wilson Airport Authority to help with a joint resurfacing project for the runways. After some discussion, members opted to recess the meeting until 8:30 a.m. next Thursday to discuss the matter further.

“This problem didn’t come overnight and it takes time for us to assess how to proceed,” said Councilman Michael Bell.

County commissioners also delayed their action by a week to discuss the matter further before approving the allocation Tuesday. Councilman James Johnson expressed his frustration that tax revenue that goes to Nash County is not reinvested in the airport and said the airport needs to market the Wilson community as much as Rocky Mount if the allocation is approved.

“I know we’re two-sevenths of the Rocky Mount-Wilson Airport, but we’re 100 percent of the Wilson Municipal Airport,” he said.