By Ben Rappaport, Chatham News + Record Staff
Dirt has finally moved on the first hotel project in Chatham County history.
Thursday’s groundbreaking ceremony for the Pittsboro Hampton Inn & Suites in Mosaic at Chatham Park marked a historic day as the development of Chatham Park continues: the 121-room hotel will be the latest addition to the mixed-use development of Mosaic at Chatham Park and marks the beginning of the construction of the county’s long-awaited first hotel.
The $200+ million Mosaic project will offer more than 200,000 square feet of shops, restaurants and housing to accompany the new hotel once its construction is completed in the fall of next year.
Mosaic developer Kirk Bradley said bringing a Hampton Inn property to the county was about living up to a long-term vision of Chatham as a place for people to live, work and play.
“Having a hotel really makes a community,” Bradley said. “It’s one of those essential elements and it’s hard to imagine an urban place like Pittsboro and Chatham not having a hotel. But now that it’s here it will really be a difference maker.”
Gold-painted shovels hit the ceremonial dirt pile Thursday morning at the site of the new Hampton Inn & Suites at 324 Freedom Parkway. The event featured developers, local business leaders and Pittsboro and Chatham officials who played a role in making the project into a reality.
Rep. Robert Reives II (D-Dist. 54), one of the speakers at the event, spoke about Chatham Park’s journey from vision to today, and how for so long selling the idea of Chatham’s growth wasn’t easy.
“It’s exciting because this wasn’t an easy bet 17 years ago,” Reives said. “A lot of the people here now had a vision, a belief and a commitment to get us where we are today.”
The Pittsboro Hampton Inn is being developed by the Malcolm Bryant Corporation, a Kentucky-based real estate developer. This is the company’s fourth hotel property and first in North Carolina; it also plans a second near PNC Arena in Raleigh.
Hotelier and founder Malcolm Bryant said he decided on Pittsboro because of the people he met throughout the development process of an ongoing project in Raleigh and the community he saw blossoming in Chatham County.
“Relationships become more important than the infrastructure and buildings,” Bryant told the News + Record. “At some point, it’s not about economics. I truly believe they’re trying to make people’s lives better.”
Bryant said Pittsboro felt like the perfect fit for his company because of its similarity to his home in Ownesboro, Kentucky — another semi-rural town with potential for urbanization.
“Pittsboro feels like us,” Bryant said. “We get it, and its an honor to be in Chatham County with all that our history brings, and I think we have an opportunity to make 1 plus 1 equal 3.”
Bryant said despite running an international hotel brand, he hopes to bring a familial atmosphere to the Hampton Inn by focusing on long-term employment and utilizing advice from the Pittsboro-Siler City Convention and Visitors Bureau.
“When we decide to do something like this, we are all in,” Bryant said. “Our children work for us; we don’t sell our hotels and I believe that style is in the minority these days.”
The groundbreaking in Chatham Park comes amid other development announcements throughout the county, including the $4 billion VinFast manufacturing plant at Triangle Innovation Point near Moncure announced March 29 and FedEx’s 338,000-sq.-ft. distribution center near New Hill, which will open early next year.
Karen Howard, the chairperson of the Chatham County Board of Commissioners, said she believes the area’s growth — which includes the Chatham Park project, which is expected to boost Pittsboro’s population by at least 50,000 people in the next two decades — shows Pittsboro is poised to become an epicenter of excitement.
“We wanted to support some of the development that was already happening downtown,” Howard said. “Chatham has been begging for a quality, overnight staying option. Luckily, a confluence of events including developments and political will made this site a viable option for developers to come make a difference here and really help grow the area.”
Howard said she believed having a reputable brand like Hampton Inn for people to spend the night contributes to make Pittsboro an attractive place for families to visit and explore.
Overnight options for Chatham County visitors currently include motels, bed and breakfasts and other short-term rental options like AirBnb or VRBO. One of the developers of Chatham Park, Tim Smith, said Thursday he believed all these options were important for growing the local economy, but a formal hotel provides conference spaces and other amenities for businesses as well.
“This thing is going to be full on day one,” Smith said. “Giving the opportunity for people to stay here in a hotel is going to start drawing more people from Chapel Hill, Sanford, Apex, etc.”
Smith’s development partner, Bubba Rawls, said the hotel also aids the local tax base by providing options for people to get to other local venues they couldn’t otherwise visit.
“It’s the gift that keeps on giving in many ways,” Rawls said.
The hotel will feature an entertainment bar, conference rooms and outdoor terraces. Bryant said a unique feature of the Hampton Inn is that it will incorporate local art through an artist-in-residence program.
“We want to push people out into the community,” Bryant said. “People will visit this hotel before they visit anywhere else in the county and want to be the introduction to it.”
Bryant said if construction goes according to plan, the Pittsboro Hampton Inn should be opened by fall of 2023.
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