ROANOKE, Va. - Roanoke City Council members unanimously approved plans Monday to move forward with a project to build a combination parking garage and hotel downtown.
The plans call for a city-owned parking garage with a hotel above it on the corner of Church Avenue and Williamson Road.
The decision Monday allows the city to negotiate with a South Carolina developer, Big Lick Hospitality LLC, on the hotel. Under the deal, the company would pay Roanoke $700,000 for the space above the garage, in which it would build a Marriott hotel.
The deal would also mean the city would buy the parking lot that’s currently in the space for $2.2 million from Market Holdings LLC, which owns the property. Council members said pricing would be similar to other city-owned garages.
The plans are similar to the nearby Hampton Inn downtown in that the hotel would be on top of a city-owned garage.
Documents presented to City Council show the garage would have more than 500 spaces. The hotel would have between 125 and 150 rooms and there would be a lobby on the first floor.
Council members say the developer behind the hotel is the same developer that built the nearby Hampton Inn.
Many people think the city needs more parking.
“We have plenty of parking spots. It really comes down to whether you enjoy parking in a parking garage,” Councilman John Garland said.
He said the city’s expected growth is part of the push for the garage.
“Downtown residential continues to develop, so you have to keep up with that demand,” he said. “Fortunately, downtown continues its boom in development, and we see new projects starting up every week.”
He said in 10 to 15 years, the garage will make the city money.
The hotel adds to the options people already have to stay downtown, which include Hotel Roanoke, the nearby Hampton Inn, the soon-to-come boutique hotel -- which is planned for the Liberty Trust Building at Jefferson Street and Salem Avenue -- and Airbnb listings.
“We're getting a lot of diversity in accommodations downtown, which is always a healthy thing,” Garland said. “It's just exciting to see the fact that these motel operators see that we have sufficient growth to be able to support another motel.”
He said the agreements for the development are complicated. He praised the work the city staff is doing to make it all happen.
Visit Virginia’s Blue Ridge President Landon Howard said this project is another sign that the tourism industry is growing in the Roanoke Valley.
He said the hotel industry is on pace to expand by another 9 percent this year in the region, after it experienced $36 million in growth from 2016 to last year.
“We are really taking off in terms of people knowing about us and wanting to be here not only for sports, but also for conventions, for family reunions, weddings and a whole host of different activities,” Howard said.
He said there’s been more and more interest in investments from companies, and this project would attract more people to downtown Roanoke.
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