In May, business owners at the corner of McIntire Road and West Main Street thought they would have to vacate their buildings this fall to make way for a seven-story, 133-room Marriott hotel with an interior courtyard, indoor swimming pool, and underground parking garage. Five months later, owners and employees of the businesses that remain on Random Row, which has seen several stalled attempts at redevelopment, are expressing relief after learning that the project is on indefinite hold.
The contract between owner Bob Mooney and hotel developer Charles Wendell of West Virginia-based Virginia Inn Management Inc. is contingent on final approval by the city’s Board of Architectural Review. Wendell had expected to win that approval and break ground next year, but he hasn’t been before the BAR in months, and the project is still up in the air.
“Technically it isn’t a done deal,” Mooney said.
Wendell, who did not return calls for comment, first presented plans to the BAR in May. Prompted by the board, the developer pulled the original design and scrapped certain features. The BAR then approved the general design, which fit the zoning parameters for height and density, but Mooney said he doesn’t know when the developer will obtain permits and move forward.
“We were thinking spring or summer, but they haven’t even gone back for final approval,” he said. “It could be another year, but I’ve stopped trying to guess.”
Neighborhood Development Director Jim Tolbert said the city returned the plans with “very minor comments,” and it is up to the developer to move forward.
“It’s in the plan review process,” he said. “We haven’t had any indication any way or the other of what’s going on with it.”
Mooney, whose great grandfather built the garage-style buildings in the 1930s, said as far as he knows the hotel project is still moving forward, just maybe not at the pace originally anticipated.
“I think it’s on track,” he said. “Whatever that track is, I’m not really sure.”
The corner of West Main and McIntire, across from the Omni Hotel, is home to several small businesses including City Clay, Random Row Books, and the new boutique Community. City Clay owner Randy Bill said she and other tenants knew from the get-go that their time in the leased space would be short-lived. The property has been on the market for years, and proposed projects like a CVS and nine-story condominiums have fallen through in the past. But the area is perfect, she said, so she moved in with a plan to continue looking for something more permanent.
“The owner’s been very upfront about it from the beginning,” she said. “He’s been great.”
Laura Rogers and Jess Lee, co-owners of Community, the new jewelry and clothing boutique next to Random Row, are thrilled to have the space, and can’t believe their luck. The women initially planned to open the shop as a pop-up store, Rogers said, so a short-term lease wasn’t a deterring factor in renting the space. But now that they’re up and running, she said they’d be more than happy to remain in the sought-after spot for as long as they can.
“It depends on which millionaire ends up buying it out from under our feet,” Rogers said. “But we love this area and are excited to stay for a while.”