Proposed Parham Road convention center touted as ‘catalyst for change’

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July 9 – HENDERSON – The prospect of a 27,000 square foot building that would house Vance County tourism as well as a convention center and hotel was discussed at the Vance County Board of Commissioners meeting on Tuesday .

Vance County Director of Tourism Pam Hester provided an update on the project, which is at a preliminary and conceptual stage. The proposed size of the structure could change.

Hester told the board that the community and convention center would be a “catalyst for change in an area where we desperately need change”, referring specifically to north Henderson, where the current county tourist office de Vance is located on West Andrews Avenue.

The proposed new location is on Parham Road and was touted on Tuesday for its quick access to Interstate 85 and its proximity to Lake Kerr, while intended to target visitors from southern Virginia as well as counties in the North Carolina.

“Healthy communities need healthy economic balances,” Hester said. “We need big business, small business, economic stabilizers, stimulus and engines. This project is the economic engine.”

“This project will bring people to Vance County to eat at our restaurants, sleep at our hotels, support our businesses, use our lake, have great experiences for a few days, and come home and talk [about] how great Vance County and Henderson are. [And say] ‘Next week, let’s do it again.’ “

Hester told the board that a preliminary site plan has been completed and the state-of-the-art facility will be unique for this region of the state.

The building could accommodate 500 people at tables for dinners or banquets and hold a thousand for classrooms. It would include small group training rooms and be able to host three events simultaneously, with separate entrances.

For the proposed space, Hester plans to hold events such as boat shows, trade shows, robotics camps, weddings, trainings and (a base for) major fishing tournaments.

Hester reported that the tourism department collected record hotel occupancy tax revenue last year despite a drop in room numbers, which she attributes to “advertising, promotion, social media, McGregor Hall , Kerr Lake and those wishing to visit the area”.

The hope, Hester told the council, would be to attract a hotel to the proposed building.

The board has requested that a price estimate be provided when the project is next updated, which could take place in the next few months.

“I think it’s a great idea for this community and something that is needed,” Commissioner Tommy Hester said at the meeting. “I’m all behind it. I want us to move forward on this.”

The next step, Pam Hester said on Friday, is to finalize changes to the concept plan so it can be handed off to an architect. Once the concept is advanced, the plan will be sent for tender.

At Tuesday’s meeting, President Leo Kelly asked for a proposed timeline for the project.

“I want to start tomorrow,” joked Pam Hester, before indicating that 2025 would be a more realistic, estimated and desired window for the start of construction.

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