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Second reading on clock tower building plan tonight
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Camden City Council will take up second reading of an ordinance that will finalize plans for the city to sell the so-called “Clock Tower Building” at the corner of Broad and Rutledge streets downtown to a company only known as “Project Strong Bow” to develop into a boutique hotel.

The building is a “defining cultural landmark” in Camden, according to a copy of the ordinance, in that it historically operated as an opera house. It also once served as Camden City Hall and a movie theater, before being converted to retail use by B.C. Moore & Sons and, later, Peebles. It most recently housed a thrift store used as a charitable revenue stream for an organization in Chesterfield County.

The city repurchased the building in 2014, leasing it to the Chesterfield charity, but with the purpose of hopefully having it repurposed for tourism in some fashion.

The city is selling the building to Project Strong Bow for $2, which is agreeing to invest a minimum of $6 million to create at least 30 to 40 jobs by transforming it into a 45-50 room hotel. Depending on how the company decides to move forward, it will either demolish non-historic portions of the building and reconstruct it into a three-story building of between 33,000-35,000 square feet, or conduct substantial renovation of the existing facility and adding a third story atop the existing structure.

As inducements to have Project Strong Bow follow through with its plans, the city is agreeing to reimburse up to $250,000 in eligible predevelopment costs (environmental assessments, geotechnical studies, surveys and other engineering services and the like).

In addition, but not listed as actual inducements, the city will assist with the identification and coordination of efforts regarding and applicable fees paid for all city and other local permits, including all environmental permits; lend support to the developer should Project Strong Bow need to obtain any additional land use-related approvals; and lend support for variance requests, especially for an anticipated variance to be a three-story hotel.

In other business tonight, council will:

• recognize Lytease Barksdale and Winston Lamont Barksdale for their donation of 193 Stowers St. to the city in order to facilitate a “seamless” expansion of Kirkwood Park;

• hear a presentation from Historic Camden Revolutionary War Site Executive Director Halie Brazier on recent site improvements;

• hear a presentation from Public Works Director Tom Couch regarding Water Environment Federation’s Arthur Sidney Bedell Award; and

• consider a resolution authorizing the consumption of beer and wine during the Wateree Chapter of Ducks Unlimited’s upcoming non-profit dinner.

Council is also expected to enter into an executive session to discuss contractual matters related to economic development; it is unclear whether council will vote on those matters after returning to open session prior to adjourning for the evening.

Tonight’s meeting will begin at 6 p.m. on the second floor of Camden City Hall, 1000 Lyttleton St., and is open to the public.