|By Carol Hazard, Richmond Times-Dispatch,
Va.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Jan. 25, 2012--The ties from Richmond to Staunton are getting deeper.
A Richmond-based investment group, Blackburn Inn Associates, said Tuesday that it will invest $28 million to renovate three buildings into a hotel in the Villages of Staunton, an 80-acre, mixed-use development in the Shenandoah Valley.
The investment group is made up of Richmond-area developers Robin Miller and Daniel A. Gecker, who are developing the Villages of Staunton, and other investors.
"We began to talk about the hotel last year," said Stan Manoogian, principal of Piedmont Capital Partners|MB in Henrico County, which is the investment banker and financier on the hotel.
"We have a number of initiatives for the project, but this is the first that we are ready to speak about publicly," he said.
Manoogian headed the private equity fund that in 2009 pumped money into the once-troubled West Broad Village development near the Short Pump Town Center in western Henrico County. He is no longer associated with that venture, which was renamed Markel/Eagle Partners.
The 102-room hotel, spa and meeting center at the Villages of Staunton will be called the Blackburn Inn & Spa, named for Thomas R. Blackburn, a Virginia architect and builder who worked with Thomas Jefferson on the construction of the University of Virginia.
In the late 1820s, Blackburn used many of the masons and craftsmen who built the university to begin work on the buildings and grounds where the Blackburn Inn & Spa will be located.
The Villages of Staunton is a 20-year new urbanism project, a place where people will live, work and play. Miller and Gecker took title to the property in 2006 and began construction in 2007.
It is on the old Western State Hospital campus, which was a mental health facility until the 1970s and later became a prison. The property was abandoned in 2003.
The hotel will be managed by Charlestowne Hotels Inc., a developer and manager of boutique hotels based in Charleston, S.C.
The hotel is scheduled to open in the third quarter of 2013, with renovation slated to begin in the next couple of months.
"We've long envisioned a hotel property being a central component of the project and we look forward to the special vitality it will add," Gecker said in a statement.
Gecker is the Midlothian District representative of the Chesterfield County Board of Supervisors, where he is serving as board chairman this year.
Miller and Gecker have done dozens of projects in the Richmond area, including a 30-acre project in Richmond's Old Manchester district south of the James River.
They were among the first to go into Petersburg and redo old buildings there. They ventured into Oregon Hill and Monroe Ward and started restoring those old Richmond neighborhoods, one old building or one new townhouse at a time.
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