It was a year ago last week that the dramatically remodeled El Encanto reopened its doors for business, and the high-end destination hotel and restaurant has had an immediate impact on city coffers. City bed taxes have jumped 14 percent in the last eight months, and city administrators estimate that half of that is due to guests and customers at what’s recently been renamed “Belmond El Encanto.” For some of the hotel’s immediate neighbors, however, the blessings have been mixed. Nicole Fuller, who has lived kitty-corner to the hotel for the past eight years, is leading a signature-gathering effort to ensure that hotel employees don’t park on surrounding streets. The number of spaces for residents is already extremely limited, she said, pointing out that the hotel’s conditions of approval require El Encanto to provide employee parking.
Fuller, who said she collected 25 signatures in two hours, estimated as many as 30 parking spaces have been taken over by hotel workers. El Encanto’s Laura McIver took exception to this claim, explaining that hotel security staff — when patrolling nearby streets for employee cars — typically find between zero and three. She acknowledged there were problems initially but that the hotel has responded and the number of complaints has fallen off dramatically. McIver noted the hotel has 98 parking spaces on a site with 92 rooms, a restaurant, a spa, and a ballroom. She added that 30 spaces are set aside for managers and carpoolers. The hotel also rents out 40 parking spaces for its employees from a church on Constance Avenue and operates a nonstop shuttle to and from beginning at 5:40 a.m. Typically, she said, there are 5-10 cars in the lot, with a maximum of 20. Acting Community Development Director Bettie Weiss said “good work has been done” by the hotel to solve the problem but that more is required. “It is our intention to continue to work with the hotel to resolve this issue, and we do believe it needs attention,” she said.