Updated Sept. 12, 2018, 4:58 p.m.

The legacy of a hotel with ties to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s visit to the University of Virginia could live on.

Charlottesville Planning Commission, which also serves as the Entrance Corridor Review Board, on Tuesday recommended the approval of a special-use permit for additional height for the proposed Gallery Court Hotel. The 5-2 decision came after a lengthy discussion with nearly a dozen conditions. The recommendation now goes to the City Council.

The 72-room, seven-story building will replace the 40-room Excel Inn & Suites, which was heavily damaged by fire in May 2017. The 1950s-era motel originally was named the Gallery Court Motor Hotel and hosted King in 1963 when Robert F. Kennedy invited him for a lecture.

Vipul Patel, of Incaam Hotels LLC, said his family has owned the property since 1981.

The hotel redevelopment project near the intersection of Emmet Street and Ivy Road is allowed by-right, but a permit was needed to increase the building’s height from the 60-foot maximum to up to 80 feet.

The building includes a street-level café that will have a roof that screens the parking garage from Emmet Street. The roof of the café would double as a terrace that would serve a community space on the third floor. Additionally, the building will have a guest-only rooftop snack bar that is slated to close by midnight, according to site plans.

Some concerns were raised by residents of the Lewis Mountain neighborhood about the potential for additional traffic from the hotel, stormwater management and building’s visibility from the neighborhood.

A view analysis was performed in Lewis Mountain, and nearly 75 percent of parcels in the neighborhood would have a view of the building. According to city staff, 10 percent of a hypothetical 10,000-square-foot property in the neighborhood would be able to see the hotel at its by-right height, and that number increases to 11 percent with the additional 20 feet.

Throughout the discussion, Commissioner Jody Lahendro indicated that he could not support the building exceeding its 60-foot by-right height and offered an amendment requiring 5-foot setbacks after the building reaches 60 feet.

The building is on the edge of the border between the city and Albemarle County, and it is surrounded by university property. The sloping elevation of the property will reduce the perceived height of the hotel, according to the staff report. Additionally, UVa is exempt from city and county zoning regulations, and it is not yet known what the heights of proposed buildings in its redevelopment of the Emmet Street and Ivy Road corridor will be.

Other conditions for the special-use permit include having a 6-foot planting bed buffer along Emmet Street, a 7-foot-wide sidewalk, on-site stormwater management and requiring all trash and deliveries take place in the garage structure.

Also in the meeting, the Planning Commission, operating as the Entrance Review Board, approved a certificate of appropriateness for approved aesthetic changes to the North Wing of Seminole Square shopping center where it fronts the extension of Hillsdale Drive and a planned trail leading to Meadow Creek. Additionally, it gave its approval for the first phase of a proposed mixed-use complex at the site of the Tarleton Oak service station on the corner of East High Street and Ninth Street Northeast.

In June, a decision on the certificate was deferred to address concerns on issues such as the design of the portion of the building that faces High Street and the tint of the glass in the building.

The applicant, Tarleton Oak LLC, proposed three single-story pergolas with concrete benches along High Street to break up the frontage and stuck to its desire to have glass with a lower level of visual light transmittance. Several years ago, the Board of Architectural Review and the Entrance Corridor Review Board set glass with a VLT of 70 as its threshold for “clear” glass emphasized a desire for clear glass.

The applicant requested VLT 62 glass, which means that 62 percent of sunlight will shine through the windows and 38 percent would be reflected. This request was made for energy efficiency purposes because the windows face south. The commission agreed to the request in part because of the energy efficiency request and because the façade isn’t predominated by large expanses of glass.

Conditions for the certificate of appropriateness also included more street trees on Maple Street and Eighth Street Northeast and shielding electrical equipment for streetlights and other electrical fixtures.


Elliott Robinson has spent nearly 15 years in journalism and joined Charlottesville Tomorrow as its news editor in August 2018 through 2021. He is a graduate of Christopher Newport University.