"Hotel Charlottesville"-- Capshaw to help Danielson?

" Up ahead in the distance

I saw a shimmering light

My head grew heavy,

and my sight grew dim

I had to stop for the night"–The Eagles

California-based developer Lee Danielson may be hoping that travelers remember "Hotel California." Perhaps in homage to the '70s hit, he's calling his planned 100-room, light-topped lodging "Hotel Charlottesville."

That revelation was one of two jaw-droppers Danielson made after the Board of Architectural Review approved his design last week. The other is that Dave Matthews Band manager Coran Capshaw will fund the towering structure planned for the former Boxer Learning building on the Downtown Mall.

Danielson also told the BAR he believed financing would be provided by Virginia National Bank. Capshaw declined comment– as did the bank. "Customers are confidential," says an assistant to bank president Mark Giles.

Back in the mid-1990s, Danielson achieved notoriety for his frequent clashes with the design board. And a month ago, some BAR members worried that they wouldn't like his hotel's windows.

But at the February 17 meeting, the latest renderings met with wide favor.

"The new design was greatly improved and responsive to what we suggested," says BAR chair Joan Fenton.

One feature of the nine-story, 101-foot-tall building that didn't draw any criticism is the massive expanse of sanded glass near the top. The translucent glass, bathed in the glow of interior lights, will serve as a beacon of sorts over downtown. It's the brainchild of San Francisco-based architect Mark Hornberger, whom Danielson has described as an "old high school buddy."

Other high-profile projects designed by Hornberger's 60-person firm include the Hyatt at Beaver Creek, Colorado, and renovations to California's famed Hotel del Coronado.

The proposed hotel means the demolition of most of the former Boxer Learning building which was erected in the 1960s as a bank. Danielson has said his high-end "boutique" hotel will offer an American bistro in the former banking lobby, whose black granite facade will be preserved. Hotels guests would enter on Water Street under a porte-cochere. The structure would be about twice the height of the neighboring Live Arts building and about the same height as the nearby Wachovia tower.

Danielson wouldn't comment for this story, but back in January he told The Hook he was modeling his project on Ian Schrager hotels. Those include the Delano in Miami and the Paramount in New York. Schrager hotels have become "temples of hip" in the words of the Financial Times, and "made contemplative discussion of door handles de rigeur among the chattering classes."

Two days after the BAR's nod, the hotel cleared its last big official hurdle with approval by the Board of Zoning Appeals, which allowed a larger-than-standard rooftop mechanical area.

According to City planning director Jim Tolbert, Danielson's hotel was granted a variance to extend rooftop machines over 50 percent of the building's footprint instead of the code-mandated 20 percent.

"You can either put 'em on the roof, or you can put 'em underneath and have the big vents on the sidewalk like New York," says Tolbert. "I don't think anyone wants that."

Vivian Stein is not looking forward to another construction mess. Her store, Vivian's, faces the proposed hotel, and she has been dealing for over a year with construction canopies, mud, and water associated with the renovation of the Paramount Theater.

"But in the end," says Stein, "having a nice-looking hotel here would be lovely– certainly the kind of customer I'm looking for."

As for Capshaw, the longtime music maven has furthered his diversification into real estate investing. In addition to developing two apartment complexes, Walker Square and Riverbend, he also owns at least two former manufacturing plants: the Ivy Industries building downtown and the ConAgra food-packing plant in Crozet. Already, his pack-and-ship company, Music Today, has begun operating from the Crozet facility, and a published report suggests that the Ivy Industries building could become a health club.

"I wish there were more people like Coran Capshaw doing good things for our town," says fellow developer Gabe Silverman.

What about the Capshaw effect on the BAR?

"There was no reaction," says Fenton. "It's not part of what we have opinions about."

The BAR does care about such things as windows, and Fenton had been leading a charge to make sure the windows related to the rest of the structure. The latest drawings show a band of limestone around the base of the building, and Fenton's happy about that. "It really makes the ground level look much more attractive," she says.

Lee Danielson's proposed hotel, center, would cast a shimmering light toward the equally tall Wachovia tower.


Lee Danielson