O.Henry Owners Plan New Hotel

Amy Joyner, Staff Writer
Greensboro News & Record, October 1, 2004

The owners of the O.Henry Hotel, Green Valley Grill and Lucky 32 plan to open a string of boutique hotels in North Carolina over the next decade, with the first likely to open in Greensboro by 2006.For three years, Quaintance-Weaver Restaurants & Hotels searched for sites in Raleigh to build a second upscale O.Henry Hotel. But every deal fell apart, so chief executive Dennis Quaintance began crafting a different hotel business model. The plan he came up with honors Greensboro’s textile heritage, but with a modern twist. His company will spend $20 million to plan, design and build a 150-room, 128,200-square-foot prototype hotel in Greensboro. Named Proximity Hotel after the Cone Mills Proximity plant on Maple Street, it will look like a prewar cut-and-sew textile factory.

“This, if we do this right, will look like a textile mill that has been restored,” Quaintance said.

Adaptive reuse – converting old buildings for new purposes – is a popular trend in cities these days. That’s something Quaintance and his wife, Nancy, have thought about doing. But such a project would be hampered by too many construction challenges, he said. So Quaintance decided to build his own “old” building – the same thing he did when designing the Green Valley Grill restaurant.

“We pretended with the Green Valley Grill that we had discovered this old building and put a restaurant in it,” he said.

The company hasn’t settled on a site yet. Quaintance’s preference is a space near the O.Henry, which is on Green Valley Road, so the two hotels could share laundry facilities and use the same vehicles to take guests to the airport. But he also is considering other sites near downtown and between downtown and Piedmont Triad International Airport. The new hotel, while offering customer service on par with the O.Henry, will be quite different, appealing to younger guests with less expensive rooms, loft-like architecture and more modern furnishings. Proximity Hotel rooms likely will rent for $150 to $160 a night, compared with $209 at the O.Henry.

The new hotel will have a small restaurant, which will be open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as a “pretty feisty bar,” Quaintance said. Construction should start next year, with the hotel opening in 2006.

If everything goes as planned, Greensboro’s Proximity Hotel will be the first of many. Over the next decade, Quaintance-Weaver could open 10 additional locations in other North Carolina cities. The company spent months assessing the local hotel marketplace before formalizing plans for Proximity Hotel. Quaintance said he wouldn’t be spending $20 million if he didn’t believe the venture was viable.

The company’s construction plans are yet another sign the economy is rebounding, said Dan Lynch, senior vice president of Greensboro Economic Development Partnership. “With the number of people we have traveling in and out of this town … I definitely think they’re going to have a market,” he said. “They’re kind of identifying a niche that needs to be served.”

The new hotel will employ at least 150 people. But through the construction phase, the hotel could provide jobs for even more people in the Triad, Lynch said.

“With any project, there’s direct, indirect and induced benefits,” he said.