Before considering the rezoning request associated with a new 34-room hotel on Pinehurst Resort’s campus, village leaders want a better idea of how the facility will affect already overburdened parking.
Plans for the proposed Lodge at Pinehurst underwent an initial review by the Pinehurst Village Council on Tuesday night. The 2.7-acre site off of Carolina Vista Drive, between Pinehurst Country Club and the railroad parallel to N.C.5, is currently zoned for Recreation Development and Office Professional usage.
Last month, Pinehurst’s Planning and Zoning board recommended that the village grant the requested rezoning to Hotel Conditional, allowing the project to qualify for a set of exceptions from the village’s development ordinances.
The 64,000-square-foot facility goes hand-in-hand with the new U.S. Golf Association headquarters proposed nearby. The Lodge factors into Pinehurst Resort’s overall vision as both a modern complement to the resort’s three existing hotels and as a venue that will elevate athletes’ experience of the U.S. Open and other USGA championships.
“We frequently explore hotel expansion and addition concepts as part of our ongoing planning process. As we began serious discussion with the USGA about becoming the first anchor site, some of our expansion and addition concepts and their potential needs intersected and the Lodge at Pinehurst was conceptualized,” said Pinehurst Resort President Tom Pashley.
“Each time the USGA takes an Open to a venue, they build a small city designed to meet the needs of up to 50,000 people per day. Designing temporary facilities annually at different venues to meet those needs present unique opportunities and challenges.”
Plans for the hotel include meeting spaces, locker rooms, a fitness center and bar. It’s scheduled to begin construction in early 2022 to be complete in time for the next U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2 in 2024.
Presentations by resort representatives and consultants — and input from Pinehurst residents during Tuesday’s public hearing — will factor into the Village Council’s consideration of the rezoning request and overall site plan for the project. A pair of croquet lawns currently occupy the proposed site.
As planned, all 34 guest rooms and suites would overlook the Cradle short course — offering the only golf course views available at any Pinehurst Resort hotel.
“The anchor site concept afforded us the goal and the vision to become the most outstanding venue for hosting USGA championships,” said Pashley. “It’s a lofty goal but with the support of North Carolina, Moore County and the village we believe it will become a reality.”
Concerns About Other Uses
Village Council members, however, are just as interested in how the hotel will be used when there isn’t a major golfing championship underway in Pinehurst.
More to the point, they asked for detail about how much traffic the hotel and its amenities are expected to draw to the village. Parking at Pinehurst Resort and in the center of historic Pinehurst can sometimes be insufficient to meet demand as it is.
“The issue is we’re all trying to add up the bits and pieces, the pluses and the minuses … but then understand the usage of the building and how that affects parking,” said Mayor John Strickland. “We want to have in mind the impact of this event happening, this facility moving or not, on the whole site and how the parking gets derived from that.”
Some of that anxiety stems from the proposed conference area, which will be designed to accommodate three to four times the hotel’s actual occupancy.
The resort is proposing to add 73 parking spaces in conjunction with the Lodge. Consultants identified that number based on guidelines from the Urban Planning Institute, since there is expected to be some overlap between Lodge guests and other amenities at the resort.
But construction of the hotel itself will encroach upon 12 existing spaces, so there will potentially be 85 spaces built elsewhere.
“We would fully anticipate that there would be a shared parking use between the existing facilities and the proposed lodge,” said Adam Cochran, a parking consultant with Kimley-Horn.
“However we have not accounted for or documented specific shared-use parking between the existing club uses, the meeting spaces, the golf course, the tennis or the pool and the proposed lodge. It is intended to fundamentally provide parking for itself. It’ll be amongst all the other parking on the site but we are providing the supply to serve that use.”
The resort has envisioned the Lodge as a more or less self-contained facility, with the bar, locker rooms and meeting areas serving only those staying at the Lodge or on another resort property.
“It is still a common hotel establishment, and people do move from the Holly to the Carolina to attend a meeting, they do move from the Holly to the Manor to have a drink. These are common buildings, but it is meant to be used for the guests of the hotel and it is not going to be outside convention space,” said resort Vice President Dick Higginbotham.
“We’re not representing that this thing is going to be mothballed and only used every five years. We’re not that naive, and neither are you all. … We will use it for in-house guests and players who are already on the courses and are already accounted for in the parking where we can, we’re not going to deny that. But I’m not sure that the locker room by itself creates any more parking other than the parking that is accounted for by the tees and greens that you already use to calculate parking.”
Councilwoman Jane Hogeman said that parking should be designed to provide a solution for the next 10-15 years. She also asked for more details on how the parking needs for Pinehurst Resort’s existing facilities fluctuate over the course of a year and how weddings and other events factor in.
“I would be very appreciative of having a much more specific breakout of numbers of people who will be on the site, because it’s a 64,000-square-foot building and what I’m hearing tonight is it’s just going to be the 68 people in the guest rooms and a bartender,” she said.
“This is where I’ve got the disconnect and I want to understand it in a way where it sort of makes sense so I can understand the practicalities, and the reason for it is so that we can get to a practical number of needed parking spaces, which I don’t feel I have any handle on now.”
Among the conditions that emerged from the Pinehurst planning board’s review of the project last month is a recommendation that the resort be allowed to delay installation of any new spaces until after the 2024 U.S. Open. As proposed, the resort would agree to provide plans for additional parking within three months of the championship.
Higginbotham projected “very minimal” demand for additional parking until the completion of the Lodge in late 2023, and said that adding new parking is likely to cause additional congestion during construction.
“The disruption of building two buildings and eliminating all the parking that’s on the campus at the same time will really result in a mess in the village,” said Higginbotham. “We understand its importance, but we also understand that doing the parking now would cause far more heartache than to wait.”
Demands to Address Parking
The half dozen residents who spoke during Tuesday’s public hearing were skeptical of that plan and urged the Village Council to insist on a more expedient parking solution.
“Council has authorized approximately $480,000 in tax incentives for Pinehurst Resort to construct the lodge. Consequently, you have the leverage to demand adequate parking as a quid pro quo for this tax holiday that you’ve granted,” said Kirk Adkins.
“Please do not defer this decision based on some good-faith effort of finding a parking solution after the 2024 U.S. Open Championship. The parking problems need to be addressed now, when you have the leverage of your tax holiday that you’ve granted and, more importantly, when the resort needs your approval now to alter these zoning regulations.”
The planning board has also recommended that the village reach a development agreement with the resort allowing village staff to later sign off on the final tally of new parking spaces. The 85 proposed could be adjusted up or down based on facilities that are removed during construction, or if new amenities are added.
The six tennis courts west of Carolina Vista that will be displaced by the USGA headquarters won’t count toward those “credits,” based on the conditions recommended by the planning board.
Cochran said that the resort has separate plans to address the parking shortage at the Carolina Hotel on the opposite end of Carolina Vista Drive by adding about 80 spaces between the employee lot, east side guest parking and pool area parking lots.
“I do think it is enormously important that we know what we’re going for for the final overall product and we have a good, solid plan that we believe is going to be workable, practical and feasible before we try and make a decision on this,” said Hogeman. “I think we need to understand how this is all going to work in order to be able to get it right the first time.”
Hotel Design Questioned
Council members identified another category of concerns during their discussion on Tuesday: the hotels’ scale and design.
Aligned with the rezoning request, the resort is asking for an exemption to the 50-foot height limit established in the Pinehurst Development Ordinance for the hotel district. The proposed building would be 52 feet high on the east side closest to Pinehurst Country Club.
When laid out end-to-end, the hotel’s roof would ascend in three levels from the west end nearest the railroad.
Councilmember Kevin Drum said that the designs presented are out of keeping with the clubhouse and other nearby buildings.
“I’m trying to accept the scale and I’m trying to get a better explanation from the architect, which I think the public wants to hear, on why it doesn’t match the existing structure or isn’t more sympathetic to the existing structure,” said Drum.
“Most people are really concerned about the clubhouse, which is iconic in nature, being overshadowed by the new structure. It’s a recurring theme I’m hearing from the public.”
Hogeman also worried that the Lodge will dwarf the Pinehurst Country Club. As proposed, the newer building will be taller — and due to the grade of the building site it will include a third lower level on the south side facing the Cradle.
“So they’re close together, the biggest part of the lodge is right next to the clubhouse, and you have this dynamic of the lodge being both higher and lower. The lowest level of the lodge with the brick arcade appearance looks to me like that building is lifted up on stilts,” she said.
“This is the facade that will be presented to the public. It’s the facade that will be presented to people playing golf, the facade that’s presented to people driving on Highway 5.”
Strickland said that in the renderings presented it appears that the lodge might obscure the country club from view of the highway altogether.
“When you look at this building from Highway 5, you’re not sure if you’re looking at the side of a cruise ship or if you’re looking at a hotel,” he said. “I don’t subscribe to the use of the cruise ship word as something that is negative, but the point is it’s the way it kind of appears. That’s the question, and is there anything that can be done to soften that, to make it more in synchronization?”
Bob Neal, a hospitality architect with Cooper Carry, said that when presented in greater detail, the building’s design should appear more consistent with historic Pinehurst.
“We think we have softened it and I think as you start to evolve this design and get into color and material and we start to detail it so that you can feel the scale, we believe it’s appropriate,” he said.
“We believe it’s a good scale, we believe it’s a soft scale or we wouldn’t be sitting here and putting it in front of you because we will be forever tied to this building, much as you will, and our professional reputation goes on it just as much as yours does.”