|By Seth Rosen, The Daily Progress,
Charlottesville, Va.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Sep. 5, 2007 - A company headed by a local Internet entrepreneur has purchased the former Boxer Learning building on the Downtown Mall, paving the way for a nine-story luxury hotel.
The partial demolition of the structure at 200 E. Main St. and construction of a 101-room hotel is slated to begin in October or November, with the hotel scheduled to open in the spring of 2009.
Halsey Minor, a Charlottesville native and founder of CNET, an online media company specializing in technology, bought the property for an undisclosed amount from Oliver Kuttner, who previously built the Terraces in the former Woolworth's building and the Glass Building on Second Street Southeast. Lee Danielson, who once owned 200 E. Main St. and also partnered to construct the Charlottesville Ice Park and Regal Cinemas, will serve as the project's developer.
Danielson and Minor were both traveling Tuesday and could not be reached for comment.
In February, the Board of Architectural Review approved the hotel, which will include a restaurant and bar overlooking the Downtown Mall and Second Street Southeast, along with a private dining club and a meeting space. The developer plans to retain the building's black granite faÃ§ade, built in 1931, and the hotel tower will be set back approximately 50 feet to avoid casting a shadow over the mall.
Members of the BAR lauded the project for its attractive design and for preserving the historic front of the building, once home to Central Fidelity Bank. The nine-story structure is allowed under the current zoning.
"This has been respectful of the mall and the bank facade -- the portion of the building worth saving -- and I appreciate the way it incorporates it into the new building," Syd Knight, a BAR member, said at the time.
This was not the first time the architectural board endorsed a hotel for the site. More than three years ago the body gave Danielson, who purchased the property in 2002 for $3.3 million, permission to build a nine-story hotel, but he was unable to secure financing.
Kuttner eventually bought the property in May 2006 for $3.7 million. Later, he agreed to sell it back to Danielson if the BAR approved the hotel design.
The project fills the need in downtown Charlottesville for more hotel rooms, Kuttner said, and will help the surrounding businesses by keeping tourists and businesspeople in the area at night.
"I think it's a win-win for the city and everyone involved," Kuttner said.
"It's a very nice design and I think it will be a very successful project," he added.
The hotel is one of a recent spate of nine-story towers proposed for the mall and surrounding blocks, causing some city officials to rethink what is permissible under downtown zoning regulations.
This fall the Planning Commission may lower the by-right heights on the mall to preserve the pedestrian character of the strip. Any zoning changes would not affect the hotel.
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