Richmond hostel prepares for August debut

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Print this page by Veronica Garabelli
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Hostels typically offer beds in dormitory-style
rooms. Photo by Rick DeBerry

After years of planning, Richmond soon will have its first hostel.

“It’s beginning to look real,” says Jennifer Burnett, the regional engagement manager for Hostelling International-USA (HI-USA), a nonprofit that operates about 55 U.S. hostels and is affiliated with thousands more worldwide.

The 13,000-square-foot Richmond hostel, dubbed HI-Richmond, is scheduled to open downtown across North Second Street from the city’s main library  Aug. 28.

Hostels offer inexpensive accommodations, renting to travelers beds in dormitory-style rooms. But hostels provide more than a cheap place to sleep, say the volunteers working on the $2.9 million Richmond project. 

“They changed my life,” says Emily Parlove, a Richmond resident who spent a year staying in hostels while traveling in Australia. “It gave me so many opportunities I never would have had as far as traveling goes.”

Bernie LaRoy stayed in his first hostel in the Washington, D.C. area in the 1960s. He says the hostel experience gave him a different view of the world, beyond the midsize Michigan town were he was raised. “It was an education for me, really,” says LaRoy, who with his wife, Charlotte, has been involved in the seven-year effort to bring a hostel to Richmond. 

HI-Richmond guests can expect to rent a bed for about $30 a night, says Katie Zacherle, HI-USA’s director of development for Richmond. The hostel will offer private and dorm-style rooms, a kitchen, dining room, Wi-Fi and a covered veranda.

Zacherle believes the hostel will boost Richmond’s economy. She cites a study by the Suffolk University Center for Public Management that found that 32,800 guests at a Boston hostel in 2007 had an impact of $12.5 million on the local economy. Within six years, HI-Richmond is expected to accommodate 10,000 guests annually while employing 10 full- and part-time employees.

Hi-Richmond already has received inquiries from people wanting to book rooms for the UCI Road World Championships, which are being held in the city Sept. 19-27.

The hostel building was bought in 2011 by the Potomac Area Council for $525,000. The council was one of several volunteer councils across the U.S. that oversaw U.S. hostels. Since then, the councils have dissolved, and HI-USA now operates the hostels.

“This is the very, very first hostel that HI-USA will have built sort of from the ground up as a national entity,” Zacherle says.

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