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City concerned about development deadline

By Corene Brisendine

City officials on Tuesday sent a letter expressing concern that the developer of a planned hotel in the south-end redevelopment wouldn’t meet contracted deadlines, which could open the lot up to re-negotiations with the developer or others who may be interested in it. But the developer, Noble Hospitality Inc., says the project is actually ahead of schedule.

The letter stated that Noble Inc. has until May 13 to close on the property, which the city calls Lot 2, before the contract becomes “null and void.”

“In the event the property does not close on or before May 13, the City will not transfer Lot 2 to Noble, Inc. … and the City will retain the property with no further obligations to and/or from either party,” the letter stated in bold type.

Assistant City Manager Jason Hilgers, who signed the letter, said the main concern is that Noble Inc. has not indicated there is any financing in place for the proposed Holiday Inn Express. But he said that while there is no indication that Noble has secured the financing, that doesn’t necessarily mean it could not be produced within the time frame.

Hilgers said the letter stated he and Colin Noble, owner of Noble Inc., had a conversation on Feb. 12, and the letter was not only a reminder of the agreement between the city and Noble, but also a documentation of that conversation.

“We just didn’t want all of our redevelopment issues to go by the wayside without some sort of discussion,” Hilgers said. “It’s just a reminder letter that the deadline is nearing.”

Noble said he was offended by the letter. He said he is fully aware of the agreement because he was the one who negotiated it.

Noble said he and his partner negotiated for three lots in the downtown redevelopment: one for Candlewood Suites, one for a mixed-use building, and one for the Holiday Inn Express. Noble agreed to build Candlewood Suites (an extended-stay hotel) and the Holiday Inn Express. His partner is responsible for building the mixed-use building, which started construction early this year.

“The agreement was and always has been that I would focus all my attention on Candlewood,” he said. “Then, as soon as the paint is dry, turn my attention to the Holiday Inn project.”

Noble said everything is finished at Candlewood except installing the furniture and some small fixtures. On Thursday, nine trucks had already delivered the bulk of the beds, dressers and headboards and workers were busy hauling in the new furniture in before it could be damaged by the snow. He said the project is not on schedule, but ahead by about a month. He said the original finish date for Candlewood was April, and with the project ahead of schedule, he hopes to have the occupancy permits in place for the March 15 ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Hilgers said he wanted to give Noble the opportunity to go before the commission if he thought he would not be able to make the deadlines, but Noble said he has no intention of asking for an extension because everything is moving ahead as planned. The letter gives specific dates when Noble could bring a proposed amendment before the commission before the May 13 deadline.

After the closing deadline, Noble must start “substantial construction” within three months or complete construction within 15 months. Should these deadlines not be met, Noble Inc. must pay the city $150,000 per year in liquidated damages until the project is complete.

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