Thursday, January 12, 2012

Dorchester Court Hotels: How Big Will They Be?

Huff Lane School from Huff Lane. A visual barrier would go here.
When Roanoke City officials and prospective hotel developers met with my neighbors in Dorchester Court Tuesday to talk about a proposal to put two hotels and a restaurant where Huff Lane School now sits, there were far more questions than answers delivered.

Roanoke Economic Development Manager Rob Ledger and Chris Chittum of the planning department showed up with Commercial Realtor Dennis Cronk (Poe & Cronk) and Steve Albus of HMP Properties, which put together the package the planners most like at this point.

Initially, the two hotels sketched out in the five acres of space off Valley View Boulevard were said to be two stories tall. Steve Albus of HMP, when asked how tall they would be, said he wasn't sure, but "four to five stories" was likely. He said the hotel would be "high end" without explaining what that means and that a restaurant for the site would "compatible" with high-end hotels. He estimated each hotel would ideally contain 70 to 80 rooms.

Ledger was asked how much tax money hotels and a restaurant of this type would bring in (since the area is rife with them) and he said that those numbers would be virtually impossible to compute because of variables. He did not have figures for the hotels already in the immediate area, he said.

Ledger says the land at Huff Lane School, which represents a third of the property (the remainder is a park that Ledger said would be "improved"), is valued at $1.5 million and the city would expect to make more than that for the sale. The proceeds from the sale would go toward improving Round Hill School, where the former Huff Lane School students now attend. That school is overcrowded and uses a number of trailers for classrooms.

There were several questions about how the hotel would be accessed (right turns only off Valley View Boulevard and right turns out of the parking lot) and how the neighborhood would be shielded from both noise and the view of the back of hotels.

At one point, I pressed on the height of the hotels, saying, "A five-story hotel would block the view of the mountains for people living on the other side of Huff Lane, while a two-story hotel would not." The answer was that the back of the hotel would be pretty. I took exception, mentioning that the most attractive hotel in Roanoke is not as the equivalent of the ugliest mountain.

Basically, the meeting ended with little information given to the neighborhood and with a lot of skepticism expressed about the intent for the property. It will likely get uglier before it gets prettier.

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