Heartbreak hotel: An unwanted vision of West Main?

Construction is scheduled to begin this fall on a yet-to-be-named, 10-story boutique hotel on West Main Street. Rendering courtesy of CAAR City Centers Construction is scheduled to begin this fall on a yet-to-be-named, 10-story boutique hotel on West Main Street. Rendering courtesy of CAAR City Centers

C-VILLE took an in-depth look at the 3,700 hotel rooms for rent in Charlottesville and Albemarle in May, but with the August 29 announcement of a $26 million loan secured for another hotel on West Main Street, those looking for a place to stay in town can now count on another 150 chances to do so.

As part of Marriott’s Autograph Collection Hotels, this 10-story luxury boutique hotel will be adjacent to the University of Virginia Medical Center, and will include a “premium” restaurant, as well as 3,000 square feet of meeting space and a gym, according to the Washington, D.C.-based developers Carr City Centers. It will offer 70 full-time jobs to people in the area.

The name of the hotel has not yet been announced, but it was previously referred to as the Sycamore House Hotel by the city and developer, and will be built where the current Sycamore House Studio Art Shop, which has closed, sat at 1108 W. Main St.

In May, the owner of the art shop, John Bartelt, told C-VILLE that he refused to sell his property to UVA for years, for fear that West Main would become pedestrian unfriendly, with deserted office buildings every evening after 5pm. But when the hotel developers closed on his property for $4 million, he said, “having a hotel there is better than what it could have been.”

Last summer he said that although altering the West Main streetscape from its historic roots isn’t preferred, it’s inevitable. He’s not alone in thinking that.

City Councilor Bob Fenwick says he doesn’t oppose development, especially when it’s by-right and council has no say over it. But for structures like those popping up on West Main, which require a special use permit issued by the city, he says it’s a different story.

“They’re no longer special,” he says, and tries to put a number on the many e-mails he receives from locals complaining about the “ugly boxes” with “punch-out windows” being constructed around town. “We just want good architecture,” Fenwick says, and uses the UVA Child Development and Rehabilitation Center as an example of good work. “I don’t think we’re doing the best we can do.”

But Carr City Centers President Austin Flajser says the luxury hotel will provide a positive financial impact for Charlottesville, and it “enhances the city’s vision of creating a more vibrant West Main Street.”

And West Main’s newest digs are bound to silence some squawkers because the boutique hotel will have plenty of its own parking—three out of 10 floors, to be exact.

Construction is slated to begin this fall, and the hotel is expected to open in the last quarter of 2017.