PETERSBURG — A project that city leaders hope will spur more tourist visits and spending got a boost on Thursday with the announcement that the project has been approved for $600,000 in state funding.
The redevelopment of the former Ramada Inn at 400 E. Washington St. was one of four projects around the state to receive funding through the state’s Industrial Revitalization Fund (IRF), which provides financing through grants and loans for construction projects that support economic development, mainly in distressed communities.
In a presentation at the property, which overlooks Exit 52 from Interstate 95, state Secretary of Commerce and Trade Maurice Jones called Petersburg “a great town” and “one we have many hopes for.”
Jones noted that some 100,000 vehicles travel along the neighboring stretch of I-95 on an average day, and opening a “full-service Class A hotel” will help lure more travelers off the highway. Petersburg, and the entire Richmond metropolitan area has seen an increase in tourist visits in recent years, and those visitors “have got to have some place to stay,” he said.
Chris Harrison, owner of the project developer C.A. Harrison Cos. of Bethesda, Md., called Thursday “a great day for Petersburg, a great day for this development, a great day for C.A. Harrison and a great day for the state of Virginia.”
The IRF loan, he said, “helps fill a vital part of the financing” and “helps move this project along.”
The plan is to create a mixed residential and retail complex featuring a Cambria Hotels and Suites lodging with 136 rooms, 100 units of residential housing and about 26,000 square feet of retail space, in a total of five buildings on the property, which last operated as the Fort Lee Regency.
The roughly $20 million project is expected to create 142 temporary jobs during construction and 68 permanent jobs afterward. Construction is expected to start early next year.
Harrison acknowledged that Petersburg “is going through a rough spot this summer” with financial difficulties, but “next year is going to be a bright spot.” The redevelopment of the hotel property, he said, “is going to be a transformative project” for the city.
The $600,000 approved for the project is the maximum available through the IRF program, which also announced approval for three other projects on Thursday, in Highland County and the towns of Clarksville and South Hill. A total of $2 million was awarded for the four projects.
“Revitalization of these derelict and empty structures brings new life into local communities and spurs public and private investment for economic development,” said Gov. Terry McAuliffe in a press release announcing the awards. “I am pleased to announce these awards that will direct state funds to areas of the commonwealth that are in need. The creation of sustainable infrastructure is crucial to helping these communities recover and building a new Virginia economy.”
Jones noted that one project using IRF funding has already been completed in Petersburg: the Trapezium Brewing Co., which opened in June.