- Associated Press - Monday, July 4, 2016

LYNCHBURG, Va. (AP) - The cavernous ballroom of The Virginian hotel in downtown Lynchburg is filled with echoing sounds of construction. While the columns and high, vaulted ceilings are shedding large chunks of aging paint and the mosaic floors are dirt encrusted, the historic hotel is on its way to returning to its former glory.

On track to be completed in time for the summer of 2017, the hotel is being restored with an eye to how it looked when it first opened in 1913. Despite looking historically accurate to the period, it will have modern four- to five-star hotel amenities, according to developer Blair Godsey.

“The fact that we’re taking a building that has a history, has a past life that tells a story makes it a more special and dynamic hotel,” Godsey said. “You couldn’t build this today. You’re not going to get the character. Downtown Lynchburg is missing something like this.”

Since construction began on the aging structure in early spring of 2015, the entire building has been cleared out.

The framing walls for the hotel rooms have been put in place, along with all of the plumbing and electrical work. Rooms will be laid out in suite style, so guests can rent one room or two adjoining rooms. There will be 115 total rooms available.

The next phase of construction moves to the roof, where the developers are adding a partial floor to house a roof-top bar and restaurant and event space.

Back on the first floor,the two-story ballroom features a large staircase with ornate railings leading to the second floor. Another decorative staircase will be installed to connect the ballroom to the bottom-floor lobby accessible from 8th Street. The ballroom features more than a dozen columns reaching to the full two-story height, each with a decorative golden “V” near the top.

The ground floor and ballroom floors of the hotel will feature a full service sit-down restaurant, coffee shop and artisan bakery.

As part of the Hilton curio collection, the hotel will be marketed as a one-of-a-kind property, according to Godsey. The developers selected Hilton because of the curio collection of hotels, but also because of the superior quality of their reservation and loyalty programs.

“They’re all independent, locally owned and operate at a four- or five-star level,” Godsey said. “It’s designed to be a unique experience. No two curios are the same.”

In order to recreate the hotel’s original state, the development team has done extensive research on the history of the hotel and the exterior structure, according to Godsey.

The two marquees are being recreated, one for the 8th Street door and the other for Church Street door, which will serve as the two main entrances to the property.

The stretch of Church Street in front of the hotel is currently closed off for the construction of the hotel itself and the new parking deck being constructed on Main Street. The closures are partly for hotel construction, but also for the city of Lynchburg to replace downtown utility infrastructure.

“(The maintenance) was scheduled to happen, but they decided to make this phase one of the project so all of the construction is happening at the same time,” Godsey said. “We couldn’t afford to finish the hotel and then have the city close all of the streets around us after we’d opened.”

The building was originally purchased for $1.2 million; the city granted developers an Economic Development Authority loan of $5 million toward the estimated $25 million project. Godsey’s team also is receiving special funding for developing downtown, as well as historic tax credits to renovate the structure to its original state.

“The Virginian is going to be a really important anchor for that end of downtown,” Lynch’s Landing Executive Director Ashley Kershner said. “Adding another luxury hotel to downtown Lynchburg will continue to make downtown Lynchburg the heart of the city.”

“Cities are being reurbanized and people are coming back downtown wanting to be a part of a larger downtown community,” Godsey said. “It’s the beginning of a real renaissance and a new golden era of downtown and we want to be part of it.”

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Information from: The News & Advance, http://www.newsadvance.com/

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