Condition of SAGA’s Hotel Hinton becomes community flashpoint in Edenton

By on March 25, 2023

The historic Hinton Hotel in Edenton. (Google Maps)

Concerned with the condition of the historic Hotel Hinton in Edenton, town residents are hosting a community meeting and open house at 5 p.m. on Saturday, March 25 at King Street Marketplace, located at 116 East King Street in Edenton, across from the hotel.

Lorrie Dablow, who co-owns King Street Marketplace with her husband, started a petition urging Preservation North Carolina (PNC) to buy back the hotel because of what she and other residents see as long-term neglect of the building by SAGA Realty & Construction, which has owned the hotel since 2015.

“We want SAGA to either step up to the plate and do a good job or step aside” and let another entity rehabilitate the property, Dablow told the Voice.

Built in 1926, Hotel Hinton occupies a site where inns and hotels have been since the 1750s, according to the North Carolina Architects & Builders project of North Carolina State University.

SAGA’s “primary service areas” are Dare and Currituck counties, and the company “has managed the acquisition and development of over $1.5 billion in real estate assets,” according to its website.

Dablow is part of a grassroots effort led by about 25 individuals “to hold SAGA accountable for the deplorable condition of the Historic Hotel Hinton and the risk to public safety and the well-being of our community that has resulted from having a long term vacant and inadequately secured building in the heart of our pristine Historic District,” she said in an email. The petition garnered almost 800 signatures in its first 24 hours, she said.

The petition states that SAGA “violated the terms of the deed” and “violated some federal, state, and local laws and ordinances that regulate the rehabilitation, maintenance and use of the Hotel Hinton.”

Bob Howsare, SAGA’s director of business development, denied those claims in a Voice interview. He acknowledged that the purchase of the hotel included a rehabilitation agreement that calls for installing modern heating and plumbing and doing renovation work within three years of the purchase. However, he said that the agreement also noted “the complexity of financial mechanisms” and stated that in the event the purchaser was unable to secure financing, it would “be relieved” of those time-specific mandates.

In a phone interview, Dablow said she has reported to the police instances when she saw people entering the building. “The building has been vandalized. Some young adults were going into the building through an unsecured door, [and] the windows are open,” she said.

Dablow said the latest vandalism event in January resulted in “twisted doors off the hinges.” After that incident, SAGA sent Edenton Construction to board up the doors and windows “because of the uproar on social media.”

“If that building caught on fire, it would take this historic district down with it,” she added, explaining how close the buildings are together, including the Chowan County Courthouse, a National Historic Landmark built in 1767.

For its part, SAGA recognizes the need for a hotel and “we’ve been working diligently” toward that goal for years, said Howsare.

“The whole thing is based on lack of knowledge,” he added, in reference to the campaign by the community. “We’re trying so hard.”

Securing financing has been the main issue, he said. SAGA hopes to combine federal historic tax credits, state historic tax credits and federal “new market” tax credits to fully renovate the hotel.

“To function as a 4-star hotel, which is what we’re doing, it has to have a minimum of 80 rooms,” Howsare said. SAGA’s plan involves constructing a 24,000-square-foot addition to the building in order to create a total of 82 rooms.

Federal and state historic tax credits are easy to secure, but the new market credits have been “a bear,” he said. Additionally, two banks that Howsare said SAGA had been working with decided to stop investing in hotels.

“The whole vandalism thing—they’re acting like it’s our fault,” he continued. “They have some crackheads there, [and] that’s what they’re doing. I find the stuff in the building.”

On Feb. 14, the same day as a town council meeting, Howsare had a phone meeting with Edenton Town Manager Corey Gooden and PNC President Myrick Howard.

“We wanted them to understand how deep we are,” Howsare recounted. “We agreed with the town we would do some more cleanup. The building doesn’t look great [but] it looks better than when we bought it.” A team was currently pressure-washing the building as Howsare spoke to the Voice on March 24, he said. Other projects are planned, he added, including installing blinds and boards on front windows, trimming trees in the courtyard and installing an eight-foot fence in the back.

According to Edenton Town Council’s Feb. 14 meeting minutes, Gooden had shared the public’s concerns “on the security and safety of the Hotel Hinton” with SAGA earlier that day. Gooden also addressed “electrical concerns for more lighting that is needed on the King Street side of the building” and said that SAGA is working with local contractors “to address the electrical issues inside of the building to provide electricity in additional locations for lighting,” according to the minutes. “The property owner has requested an additional 120 days for the project.”

Dablow invited Howsare to the March 25 meeting via email and he told the Voice he plans to attend and share information with residents.

Before SAGA bought the building, Chowan County owned it and used rooms as government offices. The county sold it to PNC, which in turn sold it to SAGA on the same day in July 2015, according to PNC President Howard.

Just “a matter of months after that,” in 2016, North Carolina did away with state historic tax credits for the first time since 1993, Howard said. Since SAGA has owned the hotel, “the availability of the financing has been squirrelly,” he added, noting that other preservation projects have also taken longer than expected.

“If we did what that petition suggests we ought to do…we wouldn’t get to the finish line any faster,” Howard added. “These folks have the capacity to do it [and] the interest to do it. We’re going to sit tight. If they decide they can’t do it, they will come back to us, and we’ll see if we can find a new buyer for it.”

“Nobody’s asked me about it,” Howard said of the community meeting, which he opines will be “a gripe session.” He added, “I’m hoping this bump in the road will pass.”

 


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Comments

  • Chris Smith

    I’m so glad somebody has pretty much told SAGA to shove it !!!!! It’s been a long time coming. They are the ones responsible for ruining the beach and surrounding areas, and shame on the people who uses them. Not targeted at mark , but just wondering why no one has done a story on them being kicked out of the state of FL. When they first came here their reputation preceded them and it was bad and everyone knew it. And in a nutshell that’s what started the decline of the beach. If you think otherwise your only fooling yourself

    Saturday, Mar 25 @ 12:54 pm
  • SAGA's saga

    If all of SAGA’s constructions since I first noticed them around 2005 were to be catalogued and rated for quality, I strongly suspect that it would be a chronicle of low-quality work filled with shortcuts, cheapest materials, and lowest skilled tradesmen followed by never-ending repairs/replacements to fix what should have been done much better in the first place. That certainly seems to be the case for some of SAGA’s houses built near me. They look nice enough for long enough after first finished to persuade buyers to buy, not suspecting that they’re also buying a continuous repair job whose unnecessary costs will never end.
    SAGA isn’t alone. I’ve seen other new-built houses turn into continuous repair albatrosses around their owner’s neck too. But SAGA strikes me as a standout, and I wouldn’t use them to build for me unless I intended to sell soon and turn the new building’s problems over to someone else.

    Saturday, Mar 25 @ 1:42 pm
  • dylan

    Is anyone here on the OBX surprised?

    Saturday, Mar 25 @ 4:03 pm
  • John Reston

    “We all too often have socialism for the rich and rugged free market capitalism for the poor.” – Martin Luther King

    “Uh, we’re waiting on taxpayer subsidized tax credits from the state and Fed to get this Edenton property made right!” – SAGA

    Hey SAGA, you want this property to succeed? How about putting up your own money for these necessary renovations? Why keep waiting for social financial safety nets to bankroll your improvements & continued expansion? All rhetorical questions, of course. This SAGA group is nothing more than a swarm of financial leaches & locusts.

    Saturday, Mar 25 @ 5:37 pm
  • Kitty Hawker

    They obviously have the resources to put up the “quaint old school” cottage court in Kill Devil Hills. I applaud this effort to make this groups intentions more transparent. They always seem to “want to do what’s good for the town or community” but it never seems to work out that way…

    Saturday, Mar 25 @ 6:05 pm
  • Ron Skiron

    Saga doesn’t seem to have ANY difficulties with financing the construction of mini Hotels in the Outer Banks. An auditor would probably find that a corporation that has a record of over 1.5 BILLION dollars in property acquisitions is just not telling the truth about renovating the hotel and is makin excuses.
    They should be held to the original contract since it appears they have done NOTHING vs. their story about “trying hard”

    Saturday, Mar 25 @ 8:02 pm
  • Liz

    Edenton folks better keep pushing SAGA on this situation. Given any slack, SAGA will probably let the Hinton sit a few more years until it’s beyond rehabilitation. That will give them a good excuse to demolish it and put up god knows what. SAGA says they’re “trying so hard”. Uh huh, sure. Just like they’ve done virtually nothing because of “the complexity of financial mechanisms”. Meaning they can’t afford to renovate the Hinton? Is that crying poor? Please.

    Having seen what SAGA has done in Dare County, OBX folks are pretty soured on SAGA. We’ve seen too many of SAGA’s 12 bedroom, 12 bath monstrosities heedlessly slapped up. So much of the uniqueness of the Outer Banks has been destroyed because of SAGA. Don’t let them start doing the same in Edenton.

    Sunday, Mar 26 @ 9:47 am
  • charlie

    Kitty Hawker’s sarcastic remark does hit the spot… What “quaint old school” cottage court?

    Sunday, Mar 26 @ 9:52 am
  • Edenton Firestorm

    Corporate Greed (SAGA), and Ivory Tower Elitism, (Preservation North Carolina), met with the real people of Edton yesterday at a grassroots community meeting. Smoke and Mirrors. They don’t care. GAME ON.

    Sunday, Mar 26 @ 12:21 pm
  • WindyBill

    Two parties that totally deserve each other. Why doesn’t Edenton just change the zoning to prevent short tern occupancy like they did in 1983? (Which screwed a town property owner.) The Lord Proprietors’ Inn certainly does not need competition.

    Sunday, Mar 26 @ 2:25 pm
  • Kenny

    I’m surprised they’re not blaming it on Covid!! Everyone else does. Excuses Excuses

    Sunday, Mar 26 @ 3:14 pm
  • Edenton Resident

    it’s time to research the collusion between SAGA and Preservation North Carolina. Follow the money. Game on!

    Sunday, Mar 26 @ 5:22 pm
  • Enraged in Edenton

    “Nobody’s asked me about it,” Howard said of the community meeting, which he opines will be “a gripe session.” He added, “I’m hoping this bump in the road will pass.”

    What a condescending statement. We are not a bunch of rubes here, Mr. Howard. No, this “bump” will not pass. It will end up bumping you in your cherished ass.

    Sunday, Mar 26 @ 5:25 pm
  • Edenton resident

    Bob, Edenton is not to blame if YOU have crackheads in YOUR building.

    Sunday, Mar 26 @ 6:12 pm
  • Edenton is my hometown

    Tomorrow morning i am going to get up and call Mr Howard and ask him to solve this bump in the road and i am going to email everyone on their board of directors and ask them to speak to their president about his condescending attitude in regards to his attendance at gripe sessions and how this condescending bad attitude affects their business and it’s reputation.
    800 people signed the petition in 24 hours? If we can get 50 people a day to call him and gripe for a bit perhaps this bump in the road will pass a lot faster

    Sunday, Mar 26 @ 10:24 pm
  • Pearl

    I wish SAGA spent a fraction of their money honoring agreements and addressing neighborhood concerns. It appears they spend most of it on ATTORNEYS trying to get zoning changes ,height limit exceptions ,etc, etc. they really feel they are ABOVE IT ALL.

    Monday, Mar 27 @ 10:54 am
  • resident

    Sounds like the Edenton residents care and are not scared to address this situation. Too bad the people in The Outer Banks let Saga and their self-serving politicians do whatever they want. Good job Edenton.

    Monday, Mar 27 @ 2:50 pm
  • Sean

    Saga is cheap and expensive at the same time. In the end the material to build their homes is nothing less than wasted building material and a bigger waste is the land their saga home are built on!

    Monday, Mar 27 @ 10:14 pm
  • Jeremiah

    Before I get into any detail let me just say that the brief time I spent in Edenton was wonderful and I would recommend this beautiful historic town to anyone wanting to feel a real sense of historic patriotism for the US. The people and the architecture are amazing and I look forward to visiting again soon.
    Now, as the architect of record that created the schematic and design development documents for the hotel we worked directly with Mr. Howsare and SAGA principles to develop a project that would be economically feasible, historically sensitive, and architecturally appropriate for the building site. I would like to think we were successful in this and the team at SAGA was good to work with despite us not being invited to push the project forward. There are some things I would like to address in the article that I think are either taken out of context or are incorrect.
    First is the historic tax credit question. This was always part of the financing equation and to suggest that the project was somehow delayed by this program is not correct based on the information we have. Part 1 and 2 approvals had already been secured through the National Park Service and the State Historic Preservation Office and the City had already agreed to the increased maximum height of the building. These approvals were all done within the required due process. Nothing was done under cover of night. An amended application to the National Park Service and State Historic Preservation Office would have been necessary due to some design changes that were made to increase efficiency and available square footage for the roof deck, but this was all relatively minor and routine for a project of this size.
    Additionally we were in talks with the City to finalize an additional strip of land to allow utility access and additional rooms for the hotel bringing the total room count from 62 to 82 which included some redesign to increase efficiency and maintain the interior historic character of the building. This design process lasted well over 6 months and we poured more than 300 man hours into the project in hopes that it would succeed. And I do not know the direct cause as to why financing could not be secured I can tell you that nationwide in the last 3 years the cost of construction materials and labor and increased between 25 and 100 percent. We are currently hovering about 20% higher than costs at the end of 2019. This is not an isolated issue.
    While I can not speak to the feelings of local residents about SAGA and their business practices, I can say that a development of this size is complicated for multiple reason and the financing portion is just one of them. I do disagree with the statements from SAGA’s representative that the City is in any way treating them unfairly and I wholeheartedly think that Mr. Howsare should retract and apologize for any comments relating to drug users or any other unfortunate individuals who may have sought shelter in the building. It is their building and they are responsible for ensuring that it is safe and secure at all times especially when unoccupied and unused.
    I personally hope that this project moves forward with by SAGA or another developer. It has the potential to change the landscape of Edenton for years to come and will be a wonderful addition to the town.

    Tuesday, Mar 28 @ 4:33 pm