|By F.M. Wiggins, The Progress-Index,
Petersburg, Va.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Jan. 07, 2013--PETERSBURG -- The city is seeking proposals from developers interested in building a hotel and conference center in downtown Petersburg.
The move to seek proposals is a major milestone in the city's long-held goal to have a hotel in the Old Towne, or downtown, section of Petersburg that would allow tourists and other visitors to stay in the city longer. The concept of a hotel and conference center has been considered a key part of the downtown's revitalization.
City Manager William Johnson said the proposal process was opened with approval from City Council on Dec. 18. Proposals are due to the city by 2:30 p.m. Feb. 12.
"At the November [meeting], mayor and council gave the authority to draft an RFP," Johnson said, referring to a request for proposal. "We brought it back at the Dec. 18 [meeting] to seek feedback from council on any changes they wanted to the RFP. Once that was cleared, the RFP was issued."
According to the document, each responding development team needs to demonstrate its ability to design, finance, build and operate the conference center and hotel complex. The complex, according to the document, could include one or more hotels and related amenities, including shopping, restaurants and office space.
The document also contains references to the recently completed RKG Associates downtown study.
That study concluded that one potential space that could have a significant impact on the proposed project in partnership with Virginia State University would be the university itself. Russell Archambault, vice president of RKG Associates, made a presentation on the study at City Council's regular meeting Nov. 20.
A year ago, the city announced a partnership to look at the possibility of building a $50 million hotel-conference center.
"A hotel-convention center is key to Petersburg's plan for the complete revitalization of the downtown, Old Towne and harbor areas. Petersburg will become a destination location and the time is now to make these projects happen," Mayor Brian Moore said at that time.
Archembault said that the proposed hotel would be an upgrade over what exists in the region currently, which he described as mostly motels and business-class hotels.
That's something that Johnson said he agrees with, adding that he believes the conference center and hotel would be successful.
"The study is a good foundation that says, 'Could a hotel and small conference center be successful,' " Johnson said. "In our mind, the answer is yes, it could."
Johnson said that with the number of events that are happening in the area south of Richmond, a hotel could be a viable project.
"If you look at all the events that could potentially happen in the region, you're looking at a very successful development opportunity."
Johnson said that in addition to businesses that may use the space, there are a number of fraternities, sororities and social clubs that would like to do things in the area but have had to go to Richmond or Hampton because "there was nowhere in the Petersburg area that had enough hotel rooms and meeting space."
"You look at the number of conferences that could be held in the Tri-Cities area and you could have a very successful development," Johnson said, adding that with the increased tourism in the area tied in to increased visibility through the recent movie "Lincoln," the hotel could have constant business.
"We believe very strongly we can attract people here," he said.
- F.M. Wiggins may be reached at 732-3456, ext. 3254 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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