Industries Hotels/Tourism

Relaxing in style

New projects and renovated properties freshen up Virginia’s resort industry.

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Print this page by Joan Tupponce

People are on the move today, and so is Virginia’s resort industry. Offerings in the works range from a corporate retreat in Caroline County to a luxury boutique hotel in Staunton and an equestrian-style resort in Middleburg (see story on page 48). Plus, a new player has staked its claim in the state’s resort home market.

Natural Retreats US Inc., a British travel and real estate company, bought Homestead Preserve, a second-home resort community, in Bath County in February. The 1,300-acre property is located in the villages of Warm Springs and Hot Springs, close to the venerable Homestead resort.

Natural Retreats opened a U.S. headquarters in Charlottesville last fall to operate Virginia Hot Springs, a collection of luxury-residence locations in Hot Springs and Warm Springs. In May, Natural Assets, a partner company of Natural Retreats, purchased Bundoran Farm in Albemarle County, a 2,300-acre, rural, conservation-based community that was hard hit during the economic recession and eventually wound up in foreclosure.

“Our whole philosophy is to reconnect families with natural parks and areas with natural beauty,” says Chad Rowe, the company’s head of sales for the U.S.

The company oversees 22 properties, the majority of which are in Homestead Preserve. All the properties are homes with the exception of Warm Springs-based Meadow Lane Lodge and Cottages, which includes a bed and breakfast. “That offers fly fishing on the Jackson River as well as hiking and mountain biking,” Rowe says.

Natural Retreats’ clients also have access to concierge services. “We have a full-service concierge team that handles most everything and anything for guests, from tee times to guided expeditions,” Rowe says. “We also have access to The Homestead resort and its amenities.”

In the Shenandoah Valley, Village Development Associates is moving forward on a $28 million project — The Blackburn Inn and Spa in The Villages at Staunton. The luxury boutique hotel will have 102 rooms and a spa. “We think The Villages at Staunton is the perfect location for a boutique hotel due to the charm of downtown Staunton, the location of Staunton in the valley and the beauty of our site,” says Robin Miller of Village Development Associates in Richmond.

Earlier this year the project received conditional approval from the Virginia Department of Historic Resources, enabling it to use historic rehabilitation tax credits and moving it a step closer to construction. Thomas R. Blackburn, who assisted Thomas Jefferson with construction of the University of Virginia, designed the three historic buildings scheduled for renovation.

Charlestowne Hotels of Mount Pleasant, S.C., is expected to manage the property. “We anticipate a major announcement with regard to the Villages site within 45 days,” says Miller, who has done many redevelopment projects in Richmond and Petersburg. “This announcement will include a timetable for the hotel.”

On the drawing board for The Silver Cos. of Fredericksburg is a 12-room corporate retreat on about 1,200 acres of farmland the firm owns in Caroline County. Known as Moss Neck Manor Plantation, the remote retreat will be marketed to businesses. “We have conceptual drawings, and we have cut cherry trees and cedars off the farm,” says Jud Honaker, president of Silver’s commercial division. “The county has to pass an ordinance, and we are trying to push that along.”

While new projects try to get a foothold, some of Virginia’s established resorts are gaining national recognition while others are sprucing up. The Tides Inn Spa at The Tides Inn in Irvington was named No. 22 among the top 75 Hotel Spas in the U.S. by Condé Nast Traveler’s annual Readers’ Choice survey of top spas, which came out in February.

The Keswick Golf Club Course at Keswick Club got a mention in April on the Showtime Sports Network when golf course designer Pete Dye was profiled as part of a 60-minute segment on golf. The course is undergoing a full renovation by Dye and is scheduled to reopen in late spring 2014. It’s adjacent to Keswick Hall at Monticello, a 48-room resort east of Charlottesville. Guests at the resort have privileges at Keswick Club during their stay.

Major capital improvements also are under way at Wintergreen Resort in Nelson County. Jim Justice, owner of the Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia, bought Wintergreen last summer and announced $12 million in mprovements. So far, changes have included a new 5-million-gallon water tank that boosted the resort’s capacity to make snow, and updates to the ballroom and Devils Grill restaurant.

The historic Mountain Lake Hotel has finished a multimillion-dollar renovation and has reopened as Mountain Lake Lodge. The revitalized property includes a new restaurant and tavern. Also new this summer at The Homestead is Allegheny Springs, a water attraction, which includes two water slides, a lazy river, family pool, whirlpool and cabanas.

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