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County, city say 'No' to raising hotel incentive

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The notion of converting the 17-story Hill (aka SunTrust) Building downtown into a posh hotel is still alive, but has hit another stumbling block.

According to Deputy County Manager Marqueta Welton in a memo to the county commissioners, a prospective operator asked the county to raise its proffered incentive from $1 million to $2 million. Revenue projections don't warrant the increase, Welton wrote.

Welton said she told Craig Greenberg, president of 21C Museum Hotels of Louisville, Ky., that "the county is not prepared to meet his request."

"Over the 10-year span of the proposed investment, the county's total return in property tax revenue would be approximately 12 percent on the $1 million incentive, considerably below our normal standard for incentives," she wrote.

According to the memo, city authorities also said they are "not prepared to offer the full amount requested."

Greenfire Development of Durham bought the 1937 office building in 2006 and announced plans to convert it into a "boutique hotel." In 2010, the county approved a $1 million incentive and the city a $4.2 million incentive.

Both incentives were contingent upon construction beginning by July 31, 2011 and project completion by July 31, 2013. Greenfire met the first deadline by obtaining demolition permits for interior work, but there has been little indication of further progress and company officials have been silent on the project's status.

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About the blogger

Jim Wise is a Durham News/N&O reporter and columnist who follows city and county government land-use and neighborhood issues. He's author of "Durham: A Bull City Story" and "Durham Tales: The Morris Street Maple, the Plastic Cow, the Durham Day That Was and More ... "