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Back when tobacco, the “golden leaf” of Virginia was a celebrated crop, and tobacco auctions were a festive occasion, no one was more celebrated than the market auctioneer.
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Restoring a gem
SoVaNow.com / February 14, 2013A plan to transform the once-glorious but now-faded John Randolph Hotel into a marquee downtown attraction got a $100,000 boost this week from the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD).
The department awarded an Industrial Revitalization Grant to the Town of South Boston to purchase the landmark structure from its current owner, First State Bank of Danville.
According to Tamyra Vest, Executive Director of Destination Downtown South Boston (DDSB), the town has a purchase option on the Randolph property. The $100,000 grant will be combined with matching funds from the South Boston Industrial Development Authority to acquire the building.
A study completed last July and funded with a $25,000 planning grant envisions redeveloping the John Randolph as a boutique downtown hotel. The study determined the building is ready for renovation and possible expansion and it also set forth a plan for development, investment and marketing to make the Randolph “a business and community success,” Vest said.
“We are excited to be working with a developer that is interested in pursuing the project. Initial discussions with the developer indicated the importance of our getting control of the property,” said Vest.
According to the study, the existing building can accommodate 30 hotel rooms. The study notes that in order for the project to be marketable, an addition would have to be built in back of the hotel, taking up the space that is currently used for parking. The proposed stand-alone addition would be similar in size to the current facility and would be connected by a covered breezeway. Vest said the feasibility study pegs the cost of the full project at some $8 million.
“We still have a long way to go,” Vest said, “but we do now have a plan and a vision. We have to start somewhere.”
Town Manager Ted Daniel said the grant money will enable South Boston to buy the property as soon as the Town IDA meets to approve the action. Daniel said he is negotiating the sale price with the bank, which “has been extremely good to work with.
“We are really grateful that DHCD saw fit to support our efforts to save the John Randolph Hotel and develop it in a way that will preserve it through Historic District Tax Credits and complement the whole downtown revitalization effort,” said Daniel.
He said the restoration of the John Randolph could greatly enhance South Boston’s tourist appeal.
“Memories are made at these types of hotels and travelers are looking to experience things that are both off the beaten path and offer something they can’t find anywhere else,” said Daniel. “More and more travelers are looking outside of the flagged hotel brands for accommodations and these hotels don’t have to offer five star accommodations.
“They just need to be warm, unique and different and offer the traveler ‘a welcome mat experience’ of local hospitality and serve as a gateway to other attractions and destinations in the area.”
Bill Shelton, director of DHCD, said that in his exeprience, derelict structures can be brought back to life and spur economic revitalization, bringing jobs and more private investment to communities that need it.
Daniel said the hotel redevelopment, in addition to downtown apartments at the New Brick Warehouse structure, will be a good stimulus to bring more business to the downtown area.
CommentsPlease explain to me the wisdom of applying for, being granted, and then being happy over a $100,000 boondoggle for an $8 million dollar downtown hotel investment that will never be built, never create the jobs that will be dreamed of, and just waste a ton of money that can be much better spent elsewhere. When will we learn that just because you qualify for some kind of grant by the time the smoke clears and the supposedly low matching local dollars are contributed, the community is worse off and the only winners are the “developers”?
- By Joe on 02 / 14 / 13
CommentsAll this tobacco money needs to be going back to the farmers. Remember that our payments end next year. How will we pay taxes etc. What a waste of money to fix this place up. Tear it down!
- By allpolitical2 on 02 / 15 / 13
CommentsDo that you end up with another vacant lot generating no revenue. That's already happened in Danville with the DownTowner hotel, which could and should have been refurbed and saved- but someone in city mgmt up there would not rest until the property became a parking lot.
Done right, the Randolph could be one of the few worthwhile things the area has done in recent memory. Boutique hotels don't need to be super-fancy though they require modern amenities to attract travelers. Hotels like these attract a higher-end clientele than chains, and for all its faults I believe the County has enough stuff to attract that clientele.
"Done right" will be the key to this project's success. Get the little tin gods who always gravitate to projects like this out of the way and it can work. At least if it rebirths as a hotel, odds are it will pay its way- unlike all these shell buildings etc the IDA wants to build with no guarantee of occupancy.
- By powerhouse on 02 / 15 / 13
CommentsJust tell me again how this great investment of our tobacco grant will help the taxpayers of the depressed area. Nothing is allowed to come here or will be coming to this area in the future. I guess you could turn it into a homeless hotel like the Leland in Danville. Not many self respecting homeless decide to stay here though. Good luck with that! Should just donate the money to the county treasury to help out the delinquent taxpayers who choose not to pay taxes.
- By Obamanation on 02 / 16 / 13
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