07/15/11 — After new construction projects, Mount Olive hotel to be used to house students

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After new construction projects, Mount Olive hotel to be used to house students

By Steve Herring
Published in News on July 15, 2011 1:46 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- Construction of a $5 million Sleep Inn and Suites on N.C. 55 just behind the Southern Belle Motel is expected to be under way by the first of the month and be completed by this time next year.

Once the new hotel is open, the Southern Belle Motel will be demolished and the 15-year-old Sleep Inn on Michael Martin Boulevard at Henderson Street will be leased to Mount Olive College for dormitory space.

"We are not doing anything to the Southern Belle restaurant," said Kevin Kornegay, president of The Kornegay Co. LLC, which is building the new hotel. "The plan is to develop the Sleep Inn.

"Actually, the majority of the project, if you are facing it, is going to be in the back right-hand corner of our property, which now extends to about 70 feet behind the old Southern Belle wall. We will build the hotel back there and about the time we finish it up is when we will come in and take the old Southern Belle Motel building down."

The Mount Olive town board on Monday approved a subdivision plat for the land that includes more than five acres for the hotel and four smaller out parcels of land that will be available for development.

There are no plans yet for the out parcels, Kornegay said.

"We will just have to see what the market does, I guess," he said. "We have not been contacted. We have not really actively marketed anything over there yet. Hopefully there will be future development on up to four out parcels that could be developed."

Kornegay and his sister, Stephanie, who manages the Southern Belle Motel, are hopeful more growth and development will occur along the N.C. 55 and U.S. 117 corridors.

"With the highway (U.S. 117) turning into (Interstate) 795 we are hoping with a new attractive building we will add some more guests stopping on their way to the beach or on a trip," Ms. Kornegay said.

"So the new property, even though the Southern Belle building is going to disappear, the guests who stay with us there we are trying to incorporate into the new Sleep Inn the things that are going to suit their needs, too. We know they are going to enjoy the new one as much as they have the Southern Belle. That is our goal."

Access to the new four-story hotel will be off N.C. 55 and Bert Martin Road. Parking will be in front for the most part and then around to the sides of the building.

The hotel will have 88 rooms and 17 suites, outdoor pool, grilling area and inside workout facility.

"Sleep Inn and Suites is a new prototype," Kornegay said. "Over the years since we have been in the business, the trend has been to have larger rooms or more living space. The standard rooms will be about 50 percent bigger than what we have now and of course the suites will be even bigger than that. Most of them will be like traditional one-room suites and have like a couch, chair, coffee table like a small living area with the one room.

"Then we are going to have a couple of them that would be considered like a two-room suite -- the front room like a lounge room with plenty of sitting, then you will have a separate bedroom. There are only two of those."

The number of employees is expected to remain about the same.

The 68-room Sleep Inn opened in December 1996.

"We have been considering building a building outside of this (Sleep Inn) facility for a while, but the thing is with the size of Mount Olive's market, we really couldn't stand two stand-alone facilities," he said. "The college has always been looking for more dorm space, and we just thought that it was a good fit. If we can try to help them out in a way and also get what is needed here for this building -- we need a bigger public space.

"If you look at our breakfast space you can't get but about 10 or 12 people in it and on weekends it is just way undersized. When we first opened up it was like a very minimum coffee and doughnuts kind of continental breakfast and now you serve several different items. You need more counter space, you need more sitting space. Also the size of the rooms -- I wouldn't say that they are outdated because there are plenty of Sleep Inns just like this still out there. Just to be more competitive going forward we needed a bigger room type."

One significant aspect of the new hotel is that it will have about three times the meeting space the current Sleep Inn offers.

"Right now we have a small meeting room that can house about 15 to 20 comfortably," Kornegay said. "We are going to have about 1,200 square feet of meeting space where we could do 75 to 100 people versus only about 20 that we have now. It can do small reunions things like that."

Southern Belle Motel and Sleep Inn have provided rooms for the college's overflow student population for the last six or seven years. This past year was the second in a row that the college had utilized all 29 rooms on the back side of the Southern Belle Motel.

Kornegay said the Southern Belle Motel would remain open as long as possible since the college will need the rooms again next year.

"If it gets to the point that we have to tear it down before school is out next year then we would have to accommodate some students over here at the Sleep Inn in the meantime," Kornegay said. "That is why we need to be in there by July 1 because we need to give the college this building so that they can up fit it to what they want to do as far within change the furniture and make it more like a true dorm room versus a hotel room."

The college normally starts out with more students than it ends up with, he said.

"So we may have anywhere from five to 10 rooms here and she may have had some rooms at the Belle and then as kids decide to do whatever they are going to do it they settle out and may go back to the college (dorms)," Kornegay said.

"I think what happened there because they are new dorms and everybody liked them that all of the upper classmen that used to live off campus decided, 'Heck, I'd rather stay in the new dorm instead if go find an apartment somewhere and pay utilities and the whole nine yards.'"