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Unique and boutique: Hotel renovation will be a step-by-step process

Town of South Boston officials think the building housing the former John Randolph Hotel is worth renovating, not only for its historical value but also for its use in making downtown a destination.

Town Manager Ted Daniel and Destination Downtown South Boston Executive Director Tamyra Vest agreed the first step is to get control of the property.

A $100,000 grant recently awarded the South Boston Industrial Development Authority by the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development to assist in buying the property is just the first step, they cautioned.

Destination Downtown South Boston has a purchase option on the property, and South Boston IDA will match the $100,000 grant with funds of its own to help acquire the property, currently owned by First State Bank of Danville.

A feasibility study completed last year and paid for with a $25,000 planning grant concluded the property could work as a boutique hotel, Daniel said.

“A boutique hotel would work if built at a certain size,” said Daniel, referring to the conclusions reached by the feasibility study. 

“The only way to move forward is to have ownership,” the town manager continued.

“It takes a local government to apply for it, and we made a determination to have the IDA buy it.”

The existing building could accommodate 27 upscale guest rooms, but in order for the project to be profitable, the number of rooms has to increase to around 72, Vest said referring to the feasibility study.

To accomplish that, the building would have to be expanded to the rear of the property where a parking lot is currently located.

“One project in downtown would help, considering the development of the New Brick Warehouse,” said Vest, who agreed with Daniel it would bring people to work and shop in downtown.

“There will be some special niche retailing as a result, specialty-type retail, things unique to this area, and some service businesses will come back,” explained Daniel.

“A niche hotel will work, because people will spend a little bit more to stay in a boutique hotel. It’s not going to be a four-star or five-star hotel, but it’s going to be close. That’s what’s going to attract tourism.”

The initial investment into the John Randolph Hotel building would eventually result in money returned to the town’s coffers through real estate tax revenues, in addition to personal property tax, lodging tax, meals tax and sales tax revenues once the property is developed, Daniel added.

“It would be an economic engine that helps kick start the downtown area.  Our IDA has seen it as a good investment,” he noted.

“It’s an historic hotel,” Daniel continued. “Once we start seeing people come in, businesses would want to come here and cater to them.”

Vest again referred to the grant to assist in buying the property as the first “baby step” in re-developing the John Randolph Hotel.

“We don’t really have a timeline yet, because we really want to get control of the building, and then we’re going to meet with those who did the feasibility study to come up with a timetable and a plan,” Vest noted.