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A Richmond-based group met Tuesday with the Charlottesville Board of Architectural Review to present their plans for a 75-room boutique hotel on West Main Street in Charlottesville.
A prior project at 501 and 503 W. Main St. shepherded by architect William Atwood to develop a mixed-use residential and commercial building never came to fruition.
“We understand the long history with this property, but we’re a fresh group in from out of town with a different product,” said Jennifer Mullen, part of a team that previously transformed the J.B. Mosby Dry Goods building in Richmond into the Quirk hotel that opened last year.
In March, Charlottesville City Council adopted new zoning rules for West Main Street. The building must now conform to the new West Main East zoning district, which restricts structures to a maximum of 52 feet in height.
As a result, the project lost one floor.
As with the Atwood proposal, the Quirk Charlottesville project would incorporate two historic structures on West Main Street. 503 W. Main, known as Paxton Place, was built in 1824.
A new four-story building would be constructed behind and above the two buildings. The applicants also proposed a fifth-story rooftop structure.
Current plans show a connection to the new building from 501 W. Main St. The new building would jut toward West Main Street on the lot that is 423 W. Main St.
Ted Ukrop, a member of the family that operated the Ukrop’s Food Group, said he and his father purchased buildings on Broad Street in the 1990s.
“I always felt like Richmond didn’t have any boutique hotels, and I felt like there was a great opportunity to do it on Broad Street,” Ukrop said. Initial plans were drafted but shelved during the last recession.
However, those plans were dusted off in 2012 as the economy began to rebound and as Virginia Commonwealth University’s enrollment expanded. Ukrop said he sees Charlottesville as a comparable market.
The BAR was taken through a series of slides depicting how the Richmond hotel came together. One slide showed locations of art galleries in the immediate area, including the Jefferson School City Center, which is one block away.
“The big notion of Quirk is the connection of the arts,” said architect Danny MacNelly. “It’s a hotel but it’s really a gallery hotel. We want to engage the community and not just pull in out-of-town guests.”
The name of the proposed hotel comes from an art gallery created by Ukrop’s wife.
“Quirk was the name chosen because she wanted the gallery to be accessible, and that’s what we wanted to bring into the hotel,” Ukrop said. “My hope is always to have a Richmonder and a guest be able to strike up a conversation.”
MacNelly said efforts have been made to not place the building’s back to Commerce Street.
“Commerce Street is a primary street, according to the zoning,” MacNelly said. “We want to make sure we don’t face our back to Commerce Street, but we also know it needs to be quieter.”
Vehicular access would be from two openings onto Commerce Street that would lead to an underground parking garage.
MacNelly said all parking in the hotel would be controlled by valets, which he said would mean newcomers to the area would not be driving through the Starr Hill neighborhood.
The developers don’t yet know what will happen in the buildings at 501 and 503 W. Main St.
“It could be a museum, maybe an extension of the gallery,” MacNelly said. “It would be trying to be a semi-public space. With a hotel and a gallery, we’re pretty much a public space.”
The project appeared to have initial support from the BAR.
“I feel like you’ve gotten a chance to understand the challenges of the site in some ways and the details and issues with the previous proposal for the site,” said BAR member Justin Sarafin. “I think you’re going in the right direction.”
“I think it could be a really nice addition in Charlottesville,” said BAR member Stephen Balut.
Starr Hill resident Brad Worrell has previously expressed concern against the previous project. He said in an interview he appreciated the opportunity for a fresh start.
“There’s a lot we all need to learn, and hopefully we’ll continue to have a dialogue, but the tenor of the meeting was very positive,” Worrell said. “I think the approach of the team is a good one.”
The building will need a certificate of appropriateness for both massing and design. The BAR also will have to approve a permit for partial demolition of the structures.
Earlier this week, Carr City Centers announced they have secured a $25.8 million loan to finance a Marriott Autograph Collection Hotel at 1106 W. Main St. City Council and the BAR have already approved the 10-story project that will include 150 rooms.