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Petersburg wants to pump up its downtown

David Larter January 7, 2013 3
The site plan from the City of Petersburg's request for proposal.

The site plan from the City of Petersburg’s request for proposal.

Richmond’s neighbor to the south wants a downtown hotel and conference center of its very own.

Petersburg is looking to attract a developer for an upscale 200-room hotel and 10,000-square-foot conference center downtown, a few blocks from the Appomattox River waterfront.

The city released a request for proposal for the project late last month.

Petersburg City Manager William Johnson said the city needs the hotel to give tourists a place to stay.

“Right now, there isn’t a four- or five-star hotel in the City of Petersburg,” he said. “We want to let more people know about all the history that’s here in Petersburg, and we want them to be able to walk to those sites. Right now, they can’t do that.”

Joanne Williams, spokesperson for the city, said the city council wants a conference center large enough for 500 to 1,000 attendees.

Williams said the city has an option on several parcels of land near the intersection of Sycamore and Washington streets that could serve as the location for the hotel.

According to the request for proposal, or RFP, the city doesn’t want to take an ownership stake in the hotel, meaning it will be up to the developers to make the numbers work. Williams that said the particulars of the deal would be worked out with the developers but that the city would doubtless offer substantial incentives to grease the wheels.

Johnson, the city manager, said the development would dovetail with a renewed effort to advertise the city’s historic landmarks.

“We haven’t put the RFP out for this yet, but we want to get better signage along I-95 and I-85 to let people know what’s actually in Petersburg,” he said. “And when we get them in, we want to have somewhere for them to stay.”

Proposals for the hotel and convention center project must be in by Feb. 12. The city is looking to have the hotel open by late 2014.

Neil Amin, chief executive of Shamin Hotels, which owns more than 35 hotels in the area including a Quality Inn near Fort Lee in Petersburg, said the city’s proposal is a tall order because getting the money together could be challenging.

“It’s tough to do any development deals right now,” Amin said. “It’s not just Petersburg. The city of Richmond wants a new full-service hotel as well, but it’s hard to get the financing.”

Amin also said it’s a risky time to build a hotel in the Petersburg area because the Army is building a 1,000-plus-room temporary housing facility for Fort Lee soldiers, which is expected to drain business from local hotels.

Amin estimated that development costs for a four- or five-star hotel in Petersburg might run as high as $40 million.

Richmond developers have increasingly been looking to Petersburg for opportunities. Tom Wilkinson of Franklin Street Development is finishing a seven-building, $100 million adaptive reuse project of the old Brown & Williamson cigarette factory complex, which is the largest such project in Petersburg.

In December, BizSense reported that Wilkinson is moving ahead with the final $40 million phase.

Steve Leibovic is finishing a 66-unit, $8.5 million apartment project in Petersburg called Star Lofts.

Jeff Cooke, a broker with Cushman & Wakefield | Thalhimer, told BizSense in December that Petersburg is becoming increasingly attractive to Richmond developers as the stock of local historic buildings eligible for tax credits thins out.

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3 Comments »

  1. carolanne January 7, 2013 at 10:25 am - Reply

    Terrific for Petersburg – I wish someone would step up and do a larger banquet/conference type venue in Chesterfield County – there is nothing here! All of the business community would like such a place to hold meetings/events/banquets for up to 500 with the ability to bring in your own caterer.

    • pc January 7, 2013 at 3:34 pm - Reply

      I agree. We hope to do that one day. But only county can advance such project as this type of project is not financially self-supporting.
      However, there is a banquet hall (CCI Hall) not for profit in Chester which is large enough for 500 Dinner style or 800 theater style. It is being used by many organizations for large gathering. It has ample parking and very safe place to have a party or large gathering. Since its opening in 2002, just about all governors, senators and lieutenant governors have used the facility for addressing large public gatherings. Private parties happen there just about every week end. Call 536-2524 for subsidized rental.

  2. Tim Graves January 8, 2013 at 10:33 am - Reply

    Here’s more information on the Fort Lee Lodging Facility mentioned in the article, which covers 900 long-stay soldiers/trainees and 100 suites, but not the numerous additional shorter-stay folks and hotel guests not associated with the base. http://progress-index.com/news/businesses-and-fort-lee-talk-lodging-monday-night-1.1278197

    The hotel in RFP is also intended to be of a quality not already readily available in the Tri Cities area, and the conference space is needed as well.

    Great opportunity for the right hotelier/developer, with the right financing, especially in a city that is motivated to move forward.

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