Council studies Pinehurst Track Restaurant expansion

Pinehurst Village Council Tuesday night held a regular meeting, followed immediately by a work session, the focus of which was a lease transfer and development proposal from Brian Dolehide, of Illinois, and Kathleen Rose, a North Carolina resident.

The interested party is looking to acquire the Pinehurst Track Restaurant and take over Tracy Cormier’s lease. They also aim to optimize the potential of the Country Saddler, along with other structures at the track.

Prior to the work session in which this discussion took place, at the beginning of the regular meeting, Mayor John Strickland took a moment to honor Jane Hogeman, a council member who died earlier this month, and the invocation was dedicated to her memory.

The letter of intent from Dolehide explains, “The intent of this Adaptive Re-Use Plan is to introduce a sustainable re-use model for five of the historic buildings along perimeter of the track, adjacent to NC Hwy 5. Buildings that upon completion through a collaborative effort will meet the goals of the Village of Pinehurst and complement the extensive and successful re-use plan of the historic Fair Barn.

“The history of the Pinehurst Harness Track began in 1915 as a winter training center. The eventual sale of the property to the Village of Pinehurst in 1992 led to having the Pinehurst Harness Tracks placed in the National Register of Historic Places on Nov. 22, 1992. This secures its place in history and its legacy of the equine industry in Pinehurst, along with its famed golf.”

Dolehide told the council he lives in an Illinois town of similar size, but now it’s time for him to move to “a beautiful golf area.” He gave some background, explaining that he’s a real estate developer out of Chicago who has processed more than $100 million in real estate. One of his projects was the renovation of the famed Marshall Fields Building in Chicago … and on his first visit to Pinehurst, he called it a “beautiful gem.”

He met with the restaurant owner and had an agreement to develop after next year’s U.S. Open in Pinehurst … with the hope of taking over the lease, expanding into lunch and dinner and adaptively expanding the use of the building … wants to bring a “new vibe” to that “beautiful stretch of five buildings.” 

His co-presenter, Kathleen Rose, is based in Davidson, NC, with over 20 years in the state. She said her team is anxious to bring more economic development to our area. Dolehide convinced her that Pinehurst was a place on which to concentrate.

“The Fair Barn is a beautiful asset, but it stands in isolation, and while it is successful, it is not being used to its potential,” said Rose.

They want to make it into a “second place” beyond the resort to attract visitors and residents to the Fair Barn. This, Rose and Dolehide said, would bring additional tax revenue and additional horse-focused retail with food and beverage options. They both said they wanted to bring this dream to life and give Cormier the opportunity to retire.

Dolehide expanded on what they’re looking for: focusing on food, beverage, and entertainment, noting that there’s a space between the Country Saddler and the other building … expanding landscaping, with additional spaces for visitors to enjoy. They then asked for feedback.

Strickland said the concept is “kind of interesting,” but he sees inconsistencies. One concern is the nightlife concept may be inconsistent with the horses and trainers already there. Dolehide explained there should be no impact on the equine atmosphere, and the “nightlife” is not a focus of their plans. Rose elaborated, saying it brings more focus to the equine culture, while most focus has historically been on golf.

Phased long-term leases through 2026 as envisioned:

2023/2024: Building 3A (Track Restaurant) renovation and expansion, patio and landscape improvements …

2024/2025: Building 3B (Country Saddler) Renovation … Building 21 (Blacksmith Shop) Restoration … Building 3 (Barn) adaptive reuse …

2025/2026: Building 2 (Barn) adaptive reuse.

Concern about protecting the village and its environment was expressed by some council members, which Dolehide and Rose did their best to allay.

Further information, including a survey of the area, will be provided, and discussions will continue. 

For more information, along with illustrations, click here. To see the entire council work session with elaboration, click here.

Feature photo: Pinehurst Track Restaurant. Photo via their website. 

~Written by Sandhills Sentinel reporter Steve Biddle.

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