Teasie Riley Goggin questioned why the city was moving so fast and asked if anyone knew what would happen if the hotel or other parts of the development failed.
“What I don’t see right now is a master plan on where this is going,” she said.
Most of the concerns were about the 38 metered parking spaces the city will be losing. The developer has agreed to provide the same number of public spaces within the project’s 278-car garage, but those spaces will be owned by the developer.
Driscoll pointed out a number of benefits that she said will more than offset any lost parking revenue, which was estimated at $18,000. They include projected annual property and hotel/motel taxes of nearly $500,000 combined and the one-time land sale of $275,000, which she said could be used for public improvements in the area.
Councilor Paul Prevey asked a question likely on many people’s minds: the need for a third hotel in the downtown.
“Is that something that the market in Salem calls for — I’m talking year-round?” he asked.
“We believe so,” said Matt Picarsic, a principal of RCG.
Picarsic said they have been in talks with Maine Course Hospitality Group, which owns and operates 13 hotels in Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts and is affiliated with national brands such as Best Western and Marriott.
In a Salem News story last month, the CEO of Maine Course called Salem a “great market.”
There were other questions about RCG’s long-range plans for the Dodge Street area. Ryan, for example, asked if they have any plans for the Hawthorne Building, which has a number of offices and retail stores including Starbucks and Bank of America.
“I don’t know what your vision of that area is,” Ryan said.
Picarsic said they have no definite plans right now, adding that it was “highly unlikely” anything significant would happen to the Hawthorne Building. But he said that if the hotel development goes well, it could lead to other projects in that area.