Newarkers this weekend will get their first chance to weigh in on a 10-story hotel and parking garage proposed for Main Street.
Developer George Danneman will host a community meeting at 1 p.m. Sunday at the SpringHill Suites hotel, which his company opened last year at 402 Ogletown Road.
The informal meeting, which will not involve city officials, will give Danneman a chance to sell his proposal to residents and give residents an opportunity to ask questions and express their concerns before a formal proposal is submitted to the city’s planning department.
Danneman’s plan calls for a 108-room hotel, 12 apartments, retail space and a 287-space parking garage he hopes to lease to the city of Newark.
The project would be built at 132 E. Main St., which currently houses Tasty Wok, Playa Bowls, the former Margherita’s Pizza and four apartments. That building, which has been owned by the Danneman family since the early 1980s, would be demolished and replaced with new retail space on the ground floor and apartments on the three floors above.
Behind that would be a five-level garage, with a five-floor hotel above it.
The hotel and garage would be built on top of the current parking lot and would extend behind the Chipotle and Panera buildings, which are also owned by Danneman, but those buildings would remain intact.
Most of the garage/hotel portion would be built on land that Danneman owns and currently leases to the city for use as a parking lot, but it would also extend onto a city-owned portion of the lot. That means Danneman would have to enter into some sort of public/private partnership with the city – an idea city officials said would be controversial and would face legal hurdles.
Danneman’s proposal comes just months after city council approved Lang Development’s seven story Hyatt hotel, garage and office building a block away at the site of the Green Mansion and former Abbott’s Shoe Repair.
At 10 stories, Danneman’s building unquestionably would be the tallest structure on Main Street, eclipsing Lang’s hotel by three floors, and would match the height of the University of Delaware’s STAR Tower. The Christiana Towers, which are slated for demolition, are the only taller buildings in Newark.
Earlier this year, Danneman said his project would be an economic driver for downtown, bringing in a steady stream of customers to patronize Main Street restaurants and retail shops year round, including during the traditionally slow summer.
Meanwhile, the garage would add much-needed parking in an ideal location at the heart of Main Street, Danneman said.
The 287-space garage would be built over 89 existing parking spaces, a net gain of 198 spaces.
Even if every hotel guest and employee brought a car – which Danneman said is unlikely, using the SpringHill Suites as a model – more than half of the garage would still be open for the general public. He noted that a hotel uses the most parking at night, while its lot is mostly empty during the day, when the current city lot is often the busiest.
“Newarkers will be 100 percent confident that when they come to Main Street, they’ll be able to find parking,” Danneman said, adding that he hopes to lease the garage to the city to manage.
However, Danneman’s project faces a complicated road ahead.
What sets it apart from most projects that go through the city’s approval process is the fact Danneman wants the city to sign on as a partner to lease and operate the garage.
Once the formal plan is submitted, city council would have to decide if it is even interested in pursuing negotiations over leasing the garage. Beyond the lease discussions, the project also will need city council approval for a special-use permit to operate a hotel and a significant variance for height. The 10-story proposal exceeds the maximum allowed height by three stories.