137-room Hilton project planned for Rio Road

A Staunton, Virginia-based hotel developer is under contract to purchase the former Phillips Building Supply from Martha Jefferson Hospital. By next year, the site—located near the intersection of U.S. 29 and Rio Road—could host a four-story, 137-room Hilton Hotel franchise. Coupled with other recent plans for hotels, Albemarle County could see more than 500 units hit the hotel market in the next two years.

The former Phillips Building Supply location at 721 W. Rio Rd., assessed at $3.5 million, is under contract and may see a future as a 137-room Homewood Suites. (Photo by Brendan Fitzgerald)

According to plans filed with Albemarle County’s Department of Community Development, Heritage Hospitality Management, Inc., has proposed a “a four-story, ‘L’-shaped Homewood Suites hotel structure…facing Rio Road.” The side facing U.S. 29 is designed to appear “broken down in massing to create an impression of a series of residential buildings in a row.”

Raymond Phillips, who operated Phillips Building Supply on the site, gave the 4.4 acre plot to Martha Jefferson Hospital in July 2010 as a gift. The site is assessed at $3.5 million, and was previously offered as part of a 7.5-acre bundle along with the buildings at 705 W. Rio Rd. The two locations were offered at a combined $6.9 million; now, the website for realtor CB Richard Ellis lists the 705 Rio location at $3.5 million, and the 721 Rio location as “In Contract.”

Albemarle County Planning Director Wayne Cilimberg confirmed that there is an application on one of the two Martha Jefferson plots. “Those are the parcels roughly between Merchants Tire and the [former] Daily Progress building,” said Cilimberg.

Scott Goldenberg, a partner with developer Heritage Hospitality Management, Inc., said his company will purchase the Rio Road site from Martha Jefferson once it has passed planning benchmarks. “It takes a little time to develop in Albemarle County,” he said. “The hospital totally understood that. They gave us a longer contract to establish all the things we need to take care of before we’ll buy it.”

Asked about an opening date for the hotel, Goldenberg gave a tentative “2013,” depending on the approval process. However, he told C-VILLE that his company already runs one hotel in Charlottesville —Hilton Garden Place, located on Richmond Road and assessed at $11.5 million.

“We’ve been through the process,” said Goldenberg. “We’re familiar with it.”

Goldenberg’s team won’t be alone, as a number of hotel developers are poised to go through the process at the same time. In March, developers for Stonefield—the mixed-use development that occupies nearly 65 acres near the corner of U.S. 29 and Hydraulic Road—told C-VILLE they had plans for a 135-room hotel at the site. Last week, C-VILLE broke news about plans for a Marriott-branded franchise on West Main Street, that could, with a special use permit, contain 240 units.

Other former Martha Jefferson Hospital properties could boost that number. At present, the Cardwell Building, part of the hospital’s former Downtown site, is listed on LoopNet for a 60 month lease starting in June 2013. While that site remains under discussion, it could host another 100 units if developed as a hotel.

Goldenberg said Heritage Hospitality considered Stonefield for its Homewood Suites project. At press time, it was not immediately clear whether Stonefield had contracted with another hotel developer for a 135-unit site. Representatives for Edens & Avant were not available for comment.

According to Goldenberg, the two developers could not reconcile their schedules and contracts.

“They were less willing to agree on giving us the type of contract that made us comfortable developing in Albemarle,” said Goldenberg. “You have to work with someone willing to give you contingencies.”

While Stonefield and Heritage Hospitality weren’t a match, Goldenberg praised the mixed-use development as a “great project.”

“I think it’s going to be great for Charlottesville and great for our customers,” he said. “We’re just a mile down the road.”

And for those local development enthusiasts who will cast one eye towards Rio Road while keeping the other trained on the Downtown Mall’s stagnant Landmark Hotel project, the Homewood Suites should be of particular interest. NBJ Architecture, the firm that designed the Landmark Hotel as it currently exists, is behind the design for Homewood. Depending on the fate of owner Halsey Minor, whose Minor Family Hotels filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, Homewood may be completed before the Landmark Hotel.


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