Recently it has been announced that UNC Charlotte is planning on constructing a hotel on campus. The hotel would be located at the J.W. Clay Boulevard stop on the Blue Line Extension light rail line, located at the intersection of North Tryon Street. According to The Charlotte Observer, the Charlotte city council approved rezoning the area and spending up to $8 million to subsidize part of the project, paid for by local tourism taxes. The rest of the funding for this $84 million project will be coming from the UNC Charlotte foundation, a nonprofit that “exists to support this great University.”
This isn’t a unique idea; many colleges have hotels and convention centers on their campuses. The Carolina Inn at UNC Chapel Hill and The StateView Hotel at NC State are two examples of North Carolina schools that have hotels on their campuses. There are many schools outside of North Carolina that fall into this category, many of which being Ivy Leagues.
So is this a good thing or a bad thing? Is this the UNCC Foundation “supporting this great University” and does it to the job well? I’ve heard mixed responses from students about the construction of a hotel on campus; however most of them have merely been confusion. Why are we getting a hotel and convention center on campus in the first place? The list of hotels within walking or shuttling distance of campus is countless and we are able to use the Student Union or SAC to hold conferences anyway. Most students that I’ve talked to about it just think the money being spent on this hotel could be used in other ways, such as parking, renovations of other buildings, programs to help improve pay for adjunct professors, more study abroad programs, and more scholarship programs. While some of these can’t be done through the Foundation, some of them can, such as programs and scholarships that they already help support, and I believe that is a better way to support our university at this point in time.
Another question that plagues my mind when it comes to this hotel is whether or not the revenue it will bring in is imperative to the betterment of our university. According to The Charlotte Business Journal, projections for the hotel in its seventh year of operation include “$13 million in room revenue, $5.5 million worth of food and beverage sales and a room-occupancy rate of 73.5%.” I’m no mathematics major, but that seems as if it will take a lot of years to build up its reputation and income, while the money being spent on the building could be used for different improvements now.
As I mentioned before, many other schools have hotels on their campuses. This isn’t too unique. However, most of these schools are all older and more established universities. We have catching up to do to these colleges, and I don’t believe building a hotel is the way we need to do it. In many ways, we are still making a name for ourselves as an institution. There are other improvements and developments to be made to further advance and establish our university like the aforementioned schools.
Not that a hotel could never be a good idea on our campus; I just don’t think now is the time. I think the students don’t care for the idea.
It is also important to make the distinction that, except for the $8 million coming from the Charlotte City Council, this hotel and convention center is being funded by a private foundation. For example, many students would prefer this money be spent on more and better parking. However, the UNC Charlotte Foundation does not play a role in parking and is not particularly controlled by University restrictions. This means that it’s up to the Foundation where their money is spent, a fact that I won’t dispute.
What I will dispute is whether or not this hotel is necessary or desirable to UNC Charlotte students. This kind of development is seen as a positive one, but it would be hard to argue how necessary it truly is. There are countless hotels around campus, we are able to hold conventions in the Student Union and if you asked all of UNC Charlotte’s students, I guarantee you that the majority either won’t give a damn about a hotel being built on campus or they would straight up not want it. A lot of them will probably agree with me when I say that the UNC Charlotte Foundation can support the University in so many other ways besides a hotel. I’m aware that they already do help with scholarships and programs, and those are appreciated, but those programs can grow and flourish instead of giving this money to a hotel.
Truly, I just don’t see the point in an $84 million project that no students asked for or truly needs. Maybe a hotel could be beneficial in the future, but as a new and growing University, I feel like there are many other ways the UNC Charlotte Foundation could support students. If you asked the students what they want and need, I doubt that a hotel is high on their priority list, so I don’t think it should be this much on the radar now.