Incoming city parking deck could put one downtown venue out of business | Local

GREENSBORO — Less than a year from now, the corner of Davie and East Market streets will have a city-sponsored makeover.







A concept rendering of the February One parking deck. The deck is scheduled to open to the public by summer 2023.


FEBRUARY ONE PARKING DECK CONCEPT RENDERING, PROVIDED


By April 2023, the city’s five-year parking deck project is expected to come to a close, the finished look being an over 700-space structure for cars and bicycles alike.

Not to mention a parking office, retail storefront epicenter and home to a new 180-room Westin Greensboro hotel.

But for one business on South Elm Street, this new multimillion-dollar dream deck is nothing but a nightmare.

Cone Denim Entertainment Center used to bring in packed crowds and big names in comedy. Now, the venue only has four events listed on its website — two this month and two in October.

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Owner Rocco “Rocky” Scarfone said the live entertainment center has struggled to book major artists since construction started on the downtown February One parking deck in 2020.

“It was a disaster,” Scarfone said. “Everything was torn up and it was not usable and they had put up a temporary retaining wall.”

The deck, he said, has destroyed Cone Denim’s easement, an alley in the back of the venue’s building.







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Cone Denim Entertainment Center has had limited access to the alleyway behind its building during construction of a new parking deck. Equipment and materials can be seen in the alley in this Sept. 30 photos.


ROCKY SCARFONE, PROVIDED


Artists traveling to perform at the live entertainment center use the alley for their tour buses. Without it, the buses can’t get to the back of Cone Denim’s building to unload equipment and artists can’t access the dressing room.

For Scarfone, it was like the business had gotten over the nightmare of COVID-19, which had shut them down for 14 months, just to awaken to a new one caused by the construction.

When Cone Denim hosted its annual charity event to raise money for St. Jude, “Stars and Guitars,” the unusable easement led to multiple artists and tour buses loading in front of the venue instead of backstage.

“That leads to us walking artists through the front door with guests in the building,” Scarfone said. “It’s a security risk, they don’t want to do it and it creates a nightmare for load out.”

Adjustments had to be made when country singer Niko Moon came because there was nowhere to park in the back of the building. Stage props critical to Korean-pop band 2Z’s performance couldn’t be loaded. And the trend continued, show after show.

“I can’t book my A grade acts,” Scarfone said. “Everyone, anyone who is in the live entertainment industry will tell you that access to the rear of your building and to your dressing rooms is mandatory. And that access has not been available since Day 1..”







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Cone Denim Entertainment’s marquee is bare. The venue on South Elm Street just has four shows booked right now — two in August and two in October. Owner Rocco “Rocky” Scarfone says he has trouble booking acts because it is difficult, if not impossible, for tour buses to access the back of the building because of the new parking deck being built.


PAIGE DINGLER, NEWS & RECORD


Day 1 of fighting for access to Cone Denim’s easement isn’t last year or the year before — it’s Dec. 19, 2017.

That’s the day the City Council voted to build the February One parking deck, but also when it voted to take Cone Denim’s easement by eminent domain.

What resulted after was a court case, pursued by Scarfone and Jeff Furr, another Cone Denim owner, to prevent the city from seizing the alleyway.

The City Council voted to settle with Scarfone and Furr in April 2018. The no-fault settlement awarded $735,000 in damages and lawyer’s fees and gave the owners certain easement rights.

These rights-of-way were twofold, with certain stipulations required during construction of the deck and another set after.

According to the agreement, during construction the city is supposed to provide a 15-foot by 80-foot parking easement and an about 14-foot by 70-foot shared access easement whenever Cone Denim gives them appropriate notice of a show. The shared access easement is located inside of the parking easement.

Cone Denim uses the easement for artists’ tour buses to load and unload equipment and according to the settlement, the exclusive right to park there during the show.

Or at least the easements would be used for those reasons if the tour buses were able to fit through them, Scarfone said.

According to the agreement, there are times when “the parking easement may be inaccessible and unavailable for use due to modifications to the Parking Easement area necessary or appropriate in connection with the construction of the project…”







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One area of ​​the alleyway behind Cone Denim Center in Greensboro measures just under 11 feet wide.


PAIGE DINGLER, NEWS & RECORD


However, in instances where the easement area is unavailable, according to the agreement, it is the city’s responsibility to “designate alternative bus parking locations” that Cone Denim has the exclusive right to park in and that the city must ensure that the construction is completed promptly to minimize the parking easement’s unavailability.

But Scarfone said the easement’s unavailability hasn’t just been limited to a specific time when construction was being completed and is still unavailable today.

“We explained to them (the city’s lawyer) that we don’t have either of those at all,” Scarfone said. “It (the parking easement) wasn’t a 15 by 80… it wasn’t even 14 by 80. The shared access easement, it was supposed to be 14 feet wide. It doesn’t say 14 feet wide, then narrows to 8 feet, narrows to 11 feet. It’s supposed to be 14 feet without exception.”

Because of this constant unavailability, Scarfone said buses have had to park at East Market Street, which is an alternative parking area noted in the settlement, wheel equipment up to Elm Street and go through Cone Denim’s front door.

“Cones would be put out, but no city monitoring whatsoever… people would just move the cones and park their cars there,” Scarfone said. “Our most recent show, the tour bus was in, which was a nightmare to back in, and only for them not to be able to get out because people parked behind them. There’s no enforcement for anything.”

The city declined to comment on the settlement.

Scarfone said he and his lawyers have been contacting the city about the problems, which they see as a breach of contract, since December 2020.







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Yellow posts line the space in between the new February One parking deck that is being built and Cone Denim Entertainment Center’s easement.


PAIGE DINGLER, NEWS & RECORD


“Even though we told them, the city’s parking deck is now permanently constructed in our easement,” said Drew Brown, a lawyer representing Scarfone. “And not only have they built this wall, but they’ve put in barriers now that closes it even more behind my client’s business.”

According to the agreement, when construction is complete on the deck, Cone Denim should have an easement that’s 19 feet wide and about 220 feet long. Currently, the widest section is about 14 feet.







city ​​accommodation

Yellow posts line the space in between the new February One parking deck that is being built and Cone Denim Entertainment Center’s easement.


PAIGE DINGLER, NEWS & RECORD


Considering that the five-story deck’s structure is already in place, Scarfone said he feels like the 19-foot wide easement is impossible now.

“The easement that is there right now, is now the easement I am stuck with,” Scarfone said. Forever. It would be impossible for them to tear down the deck structure.”

“There is no light at the end of the tunnel for me… it is absolutely the ruination of my business, permanently.”

He sees just one option now.

“All these phone calls, all these letters, everything we’ve done has fallen on deaf ears,” Scarfone said. “As if my business doesn’t matter because I’m not a $50 million Westin. And now we’re left with no choice but to sue again, which I shouldn’t have to do.”

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