For sale: Wanna buy 'Hotel Charlottesville?
For once, it isn't aesthetic disputes with Charlottesville's Board of Architectural Review that threaten to derail developer Lee Danielson's vision.
Over a year ago, the BAR okayed Danielson's proposal to build a 100-room hotel on the site of the former Central Fidelity Bank/Boxer Learning building on the Downtown Mall.
But instead of a 100-foot-high structure with glowing lights on top, a "for sale" sign has gone up.
And the $5.2 million asking price for 200 East Main Street is nearly double the highest-price city sale: the $2.8 million Coran Capshaw paid for the SNL building last August.
At a BAR meeting last year, Danielson announced that Capshaw would help with funding the hotel, a report Capshaw never publicly confirmed.
"He was extended to the point he couldn't take on another project," explains the California-based Danielson in a telephone interview.
And financing is still an issue for the hotel. "We're still going forward," insists Danielson, but his partners insist that in the meantime, the property be listed for sale.
So is the big-bucks price intended to set a new record or discourage buyers? "I have no comment on that," says Danielson, adding, "I don't think people will be beating down the doors."
"Somebody might just give him the money," says city assessor Roosevelt Barbour, who thinks $3 to $4 million is entirely doable.
Danielson was the Capshaw of the 1990s. With backing from his then-partner, Colin Rolph, he seemed to buy every commercial property that came on the market, and left an indelible mark on the west end of the pedestrian mall with the Charlottesville Ice Park, the Regal Cinema, and the Second Street crossing.
When Rolph and Danielson went their separate ways after a bitter breakup, Danielson got the black granite Central Fidelity building, which stretches back to Water Street along Second Street SE.
And unlike the days when the city issued a stop-work order at the Regal, or the BAR demanded the removal of Victorian street lights in front of the ice park, this time the planning powers loved his Ian Schrager-inspired "temple of hip" hotel plans, even granting him a variance for a larger-than-standard rooftop mechanical area.
"We were just waiting for them to submit a site plan," says planner Ashley Cooper. "It's too bad. Everyone was so excited about it."
Danielson is not giving up, but he concedes that financing a hotel is a different breed of cat. "It is a much more difficult process than I ever thought," he says.
How close is he to finding funds? "Every time the phone rings, I think that's it," he says. And he expects to hear within two weeks whether some former UVAers will step up to the plate.
But for now, the property– like another former Danielson/Rolph project-in-waiting, the boarded-up storefronts beside the Wachovia tower– sits empty.
The shimmering lights of Lee Danielson's proposed Hotel Charlottesville, more recently called the Landmark, still aren