On 14th Street: Boutique 'Alcove' hotel gets Council approval
Charlottesville may soon get its first boutique hotel after City Council approved rehab plans that would transform the Alcove condominium complex on 14th Street into a 30-room hotel. The April 5 action clears much of the way for the owner, University Limited Partnership LLC, to launch the project.
Of course, considering the fate of the last boutique hotel that Council approved, a hulking concrete tower on the Downtown Mall that could sit unfinished for years, some might wonder if this one is really going to get built. But according to the Partnership’s Whit Graves, “The Alcove” is unlikely to follow in the footsteps of "The Landmark," a hotel now mired in lawsuits.
“We’re very confident we’ll get this done,” says Graves, pointing out that The Alcove would rise on a much smaller scale than the 101-room, $31 million Landmark–- and require a much smaller budget.
The existing structure, now a 21-unit apartment complex, began its life as 1950s motor lodge constructed of concrete block with open-air hallways typical of the era. It is located near the bustling shopping district known as the Corner.
“I think the location is one where it is likely to thrive,” says City Councilor Kristin Szakos, part of the unanimous vote favoring the project, “and I believe it is also smaller [than the Landmark] and requires less initial outlay.”
The City's special use permit grants the hotel the right to build closer to property lines than otherwise allowed. And, taking note of the City's recent intensification of its sound ordinance, the permit bans any sounds exceeding 65 decibels after 11pm. Indeed, the .25-acre lot lies near several residential buildings.
Parking was also an issue, but Graves says the company plans to contract with the 14th Street Parking Garage across the street for valet and self-parking–- and also offer scooter rentals. Plus, he hopes guests will use public transit and take advantage of all that is within walking distance (which includes myriad restaurants, shop, and the famed UVA Lawn.).
Graves says that the University Limited Partnership, a group of family members, purchased the property in 1987 for $481,700. It’s now assessed at $2.2 million. And while the units are technically classified as condominiums, Graves says the family has always rented them as apartments, which go from $650 to $795 per month.
So why a hotel?
Graves says the group was looking for new ideas for the building and believes a hotel could provide a better revenue stream than the apartments, as market research, he says, shows that demand for hotel space in town “far exceeds” supply.
The City's Planning Commission recommended approval of the proposal during a March 9 public hearing. The Commission has already approved aspects of another boutique hotel, sized at 27 rooms, in the mostly residential neighborhood below UVA's Cabell Hall, but no construction on that one has commenced.
Although the Alcove hotel's design, which must be approved by the Board of Architectural Review, hasn’t been selected, initial plans include building another one-and-half stories on top of the existing structure and performing extensive renovations on the existing units. Envisioned features include a basement lobby, a drive-up entrance, and–- like the Landmark–- a roof-top terrace. Graves says the company also wants to go green and seek Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, certification upon completion which he hopes will occur next year.
“Our goal is to create a boutique hotel where modern elegance meets Southern hospitality,” says Graves. “We’re over the major hurdles, and now we’re looking for an architect.”