Outcry forces withdrawal of luxury-hotel-in-a-public-park plan

The outcry against the sale and development of a public park on the Neuse River has shut the proposed project down. In an unexpected, but welcome, move this week, the group behind the plan to build a luxury hotel at Union Point Park in New Bern withdrew its proposal.

On Feb. 8, New Bern’s Board of Aldermen passed a memorandum of understanding between the City and a group called New Bern Historic, LLC, that called for the City to pursue the sale and development of a beloved waterfront park. One of three projects the company was proposing for downtown New Bern, this one would have replaced boat-ramps, boat-trailer parking, green space and public restrooms with a luxury hotel.

Public dismay was immediate and apparent, even on short notice, when 17 people showed up to the Board’s meeting to speak out against the project; on Saturday, more than 100 people attended a “Save Union Park” rally at the park. (Watch Lower Neuse Riverkeeper Katy Hunt’s interview at the rally on WNCT). By Tuesday, a joint statement between the City and the Kessler Collection (parent company of New Bern Historic, LLC) was issued.

“Concerns, questions and complaints began pouring in on social media and through texts, emails and phone calls after last week’s Board of Aldermen meeting,” the website reads.

Kessler Collection “… saw Union Point Park as an opportunity to enhance a public asset by upgrading the park’s amenities and adding additional public services,” but plenty of people found the sale of public land for private development problematic.

The Feb. 8 New Bern Board of Aldermen’s meeting was packed with residents concerned about the City plans for the public waterfront park.

Of particular concern to Sound Rivers were two things: that a luxury hotel at Union Point Park does not benefit the vast majority of people in New Bern — people who rely on publicly owned property to enjoy green spaces and New Bern’s greatest assets, its waterways; that, with the exception of a proposed boutique hotel in the existing Elk’s building, the type of development included in the resolution directly opposes strategies the City’s own hazard mitigation and resiliency plan spell out to reduce damage and the impact of flooding in downtown New Bern.

Sound Rivers will be working to have a permanent solution/ordinance passed to protect Union Point Park from future considerations of sale and development.