Danville City Council gave the go-ahead for a new boutique hotel across from the Danville Museum of Fine Arts & History.
But there was opposition during a public hearing on the project from two residents in the neighborhood near Holbrook and Main streets, where the hotel would be located in what is known as the “doctors building.”
“Some of the residents are wondering what happens if it fails,” said Lawrence Meder, who lives on Chestnut Street in the Old West End.
Occupancy could fall and the nightly rate could plummet to $35 per night, Meder speculated.
Also, there is no clear definition of a hotel or boutique hotel, he added.
“There are some concerns,” he said. “What is this thing? What is it going to be?”
Ed Walker, of Mid-Altantic Prospects LLC in Roanoke, requested a special-use permit to develop 990 Main St. and 108 Holbrook St. — known informally as the old doctors building and including an annex — into a boutique hotel with as many as 40 suites.
During a presentation to the Danville Planning Commission last month, Walker said he wanted to help turn a dark, dangerous part of the area into a quieter, better-lit and safer place.
The structure and an annex on the property total about 30,000 square feet. Built in 1957, it used to house doctor offices and has been vacant since January, said Walker, who bought the building Nov. 30, 2018.
While the term “boutique hotel” can be vague, Walker defined it last month as a hotel that is locally focused, not a chain establishment, containing high-end furniture and fixtures and lots of landscaping.
Resident Lewis Dumont expressed support for the proposal.
“Danville is making a lot of progress,” he said. “Please help to continue this progress and please vote yes.”
A boarded-up old building does not send a positive message, he added.
“This opportunity is not going to come around again, so please take advantage of it,” he said.
But Frances Baughman, who lives on Main Street, expressed concerns it could turn into a chain hotel, extended stay hotel or “another Hotel Leeland,” a hotel that used to house former inmates that closed in downtown Danville.
“What are you going to do to protect the people who have invested significant time, money and sweat equity in our properties?”
Resident Cherie Tamson said she was in favor of the hotel.
“He [Walker] wants to take a property and make it better,” Tamson said.
She also told council not put too many limits and restrictions on the project.
Councilman Fred Shanks said he supported the idea but had concerns about the wide definition for hotels. Also, Shanks proposed amending the motion to approve the project by limiting it to 45 suites with interior access.
Councilmen voted 6-2 — with Vice Mayor Lee Vogler and Councilman James Buckner opposing — to support Shanks’ amendment.
They then voted 8-0 to approve it with the amendment. Councilman Adam Tomer was absent because he is recovering from surgery.
Walker told council he had no problem with the amendment.
Walker also is behind the $6.2 million hotel project in the Knights of Pythias Building and the site of the former Danville Register and The Bee at South Union Street downtown.
The project would include a hotel, called “The Honey Bee,” with 42 limited-service suites. The name would be a reference to when it housed the two newspapers that merged to become the Danville Register & Bee.
Crane reports for the Register & Bee. He can be reached at (434) 791-7987.