|By Novelda Sommers, Daily Press, Newport News, Va.
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Oct. 23, 2003 - JAMES CITY COUNTY, Va.--A black-mold infestation has caused Kingsmill Resort's guest condominium to cancel reservations and close all 400 rooms until spring.
Half the condos are expected to be ready for guests again in April, and the other half are set to reopen in June, said Joseph Durante III, executive vice president and managing director for the resort, a subsidiary of Anheuser-Busch Cos.
The resort stands to lose a substantial amount of revenue, Durante said, as will 160 to 170 private owners who purchased rooms to use and rent out.
The resort operates similar to a timeshare. Its 400 rooms are in 26 buildings designed as villas. Some owners have title to more than one room, and the resort owns some rooms. The owners make the rooms available in Kingsmill's rental program, which Kingsmill manages, and the owners and the resort split the rental income.
Durante said it's too early to know the price tag of the closure and mold cleanup. The resort will cover all mold-removal costs. Eliminating the mold will entail removing walls down to the studs and replacing them. Carpets and furniture also will be replaced.
Kingsmill's amenities, including the spa, meeting rooms and fitness center will remain open. The sites were not affected by mold because they are of heavier commercial construction and have heavy-duty ventilation systems that help keep down the humid conditions that allow mold to flourish.
"We don't feel great about being in this situation, and we regret any inconvenience to our guests," Durante said, adding the resort is approaching its off season, which will minimize revenue loss.
"That's what precipitates our aggressive push to get this done through the winter months and open for spring," he said.
Rental rates vary by season and room size. For a basic guestroom, a visitor to the resort would currently pay $199 on a weeknight, and $279 on a weekend, according to the resort's Web site, www.kingsmill.com. A three-bedroom suite could cost as much as $997 on a weekend.
Mold is a health hazard because it can trigger allergic reactions, asthma and other respiratory problems, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Mold spores grow in damp spots indoors, and the only way to control mold growth is to keep moisture minimal.
The discovery of the mold at Kingsmill about a week after Hurricane Isabel hit means the resort will accelerate its plan to renovate the rooms and add amenities such as high speed Internet access, Durante said.
Before Hurricane Isabel hit, workers who had begun renovations discovered a small amount of mildew in the rooms, but were tackling it with bleach and a solution made for killing mildew, which is not as hazardous as black mold, Durante said.
Then Isabel knocked out power for four days. Ventilation systems were off, and humidity in the rooms rose. That's when the mold must have started growing rapidly, Durante said. When workers re-entered the rooms, they could smell the mold.
"We had our units locked up tight," he said. "The high humidity it put the mold in explosive reproduction mode."
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