Deluxe lodgings: Two West Main hotels set to open this year

The Marriott Residence Inn looming on the corner of West Main and Ridge-McIntire will have 124 rooms and boasts great views.
Image: Design-Develop LLC The Marriott Residence Inn looming on the corner of West Main and Ridge-McIntire will have 124 rooms and boasts great views. Image: Design-Develop LLC

Two upscale hotels are under construction on West Main Street, and rather than creating an oversupply of hotel rooms, tourism officials say they will hardly make a dent in prime season demand.

This summer, the former Red Roof Inn on the Corner will unveil itself as Graduate Charlottesville, part of a new chain hitting college-town markets like Athens, Georgia, and Oxford, Mississippi.

“It’s a unique product branded around that old collegiate feel,” said Kris Altman, corporate marketing director for Charlestowne Hotels, which is managing Graduate hotels for owners A.J. Capital Partners. And by old collegiate feel, he’s not talking keggers or Animal House. This is a more refined product “with added amenities you may not have had before” during those old college days, said Altman.

That would include pedicabs, a second-floor game room and a coffee shop on the first floor with a walk-up window. And general manager Yolunda Armstrong points out with its primo location on the Corner across the street from UVA, “It’s the best location in town.”

The Graduate is a story taller than its predecessor with a ninth floor addition that will have a restaurant and bar, as well as event space. And Graduate Charlottesville is all about events, particularly wedding party accommodations and a bridal dressing room. Another perk: a shuttle service to get guests within a three- to five-mile radius, said Altman. And the hotel is offering bike rentals as well.

The new 135-room facility is “not your standard Holiday Inn Express or Red Roof Inn,” said Altman. When it opens—anticipated date: July— it will be a 3½ to 4 star hotel, said Altman.

He’s not concerned about the fancy new Marriott Residence Inn going up down the street. “They’re a different market,” he said. “If I was the Omni, yeah, I’d be worried.”

The 120,000-square-foot Marriott is rising like a monolith at the corner of Ridge-McIntire. “It’s going to be spectacular,” promised owner Charles Wendell of Virginia Inn Management, and he hopes to be open between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Wendell, who’s from West Virginia, has a local connection: “My wife and I began our married life in Charlottesville in 1970,” he said. And his son went to UVA.

This is Wendell’s 21st hotel, and it won’t be like the typical Residence Inn. “Rather than the standard interior, we hired a special interior designer and upgraded the whole space,” he said. “It’s not generic at all.” The interior has “great height, and a “great feeling of walking into a special hotel,” he enthused.

Around back, there’s room for 20 cars near the entrance and the garage has 119 spaces.

The pool is already in, and the hotel will have a big exercise room and meeting space, he said. Its courtyard in front of the lobby on West Main features a firepit, and Wendell thinks it will be an excellent spot for locals to have a drink.

The seven-story hotel that was once the site of Random Row Books and City Clay will have 124 rooms, and on the second and third floors, two large suites look out on the Lewis and Clark statue. On the seventh floor, “anywhere you look the views are spectacular,” said Wendell, quickly amending that to say the views are good from anywhere in the Marriott, which overlooks Staples, the federal courthouse and of course, the Omni.

Wendell says the hotel he built in Morgantown, West Virginia, was voted one of the top three in the Marriott system of 650 hotels, and is one of the few winners not managed by Marriott.

The new hotel will not have a restaurant, he said, because there are plenty of good eateries already around. He does think it will bring something else: “a presence.” He said, “This hotel is going to be transformative for West Main Street.” And Wendell, who lives in Charleston, South Carolina, envisions West Main becoming like Charleston’s happening, restaurant, bar and gallery-laden Upper King Street.

Off West Main, a third hotel is under construction within the city limits, and it’s not the still-skeletal Landmark Hotel on the Downtown Mall.

The Country Inn and Suites is going up on Emmet Street at the site of the partially demolished Days Inn, where the former Red Lobster restaurant was razed for the new hostelry. The Country Inn will have 86 rooms, about half of which are suites, said owner Bhupendra Patel, who’s headquarterd in Midlothian. The project should be completed July or August 2016, he said.

Despite more than 300 new rooms coming onto the accommodations market in the next year or so, Bri Warner with the Charlottesville Albemarle Convention and Visitors Bureau doesn’t foresee a glut.

“From our standpoint, at certain times of the year during the high season—April through June, September through mid-November—we have to refer people out of town,” she said. Charlottesville has become the hub of a wedding-destination boom, she said, and even with 3,600 rooms currently and the additional 345 rooms on the horizon, during prime marrying times, they’re going to be sold out.

 Correction 4/24/15: Charlestowne Hotels was misspelled in the original version.

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