Industries Hotels/Tourism

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From Charlottesville to Bath County, resorts look for summer travelers and sales

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Print this page by Elizabeth Cooper

As the economy improves, business has been picking up in Virginia’s resort industry. Some are finishing upgrades just in time for the summer season.

in Charlottesville recently completed renovation of its 175 guest rooms. The renovations are part of the Charlottesville resort’s redesign program set in motion after nearly a year of historical research and planning. Owned and operated by the University of Virginia Foundation, The Boar’s Head blended both traditional and contemporary elements in its upgrades, paying close attention to the inn’s connection to the university, Thomas Jefferson and the area’s history. 

William J. Smith II also is counting on history to stir memories from a more recent era as he fixes up the 85-year-old George Wythe Hotel. The downtown Wytheville landmark was a full-service hotel until it became a bank in 1970. Smith, owner of Smith Enterprises, a real estate development and property management company, purchased the building after bank operations closed in 2010, and he decided to restore it to its original state. Slated to open next spring, the hotel will have 30 guest rooms, a café/restaurant and meeting rooms.

Located within a mile and a half of three major interstate exits, the George Wythe is expected to anchor Wytheville’s downtown renewal efforts. It was one of five projects across the state to get a grant from Virginia’s Industrial Revitalization Fund. That will help pay for the $3.5 million renovation. “We’re interested in doing whatever we can to shore up the downtown and do good things for the community,” Smith says.

Smith, who has invested in downtown Wytheville for more than 35 years, jumped at the opportunity to convert the empty building to its former use. “Empty buildings don’t do anyone any good,” he says. “This will be the only full-service hotel in town and the only historic hotel.

Celebration Associates is banking on people not only taking vacations but also purchasing second homes for their travels. The Hot Springs company has been marketing Homestead Preserve for the past decade as a conservation resort community. Set on 11,500 acres in Bath County, Homestead Preserve — right around the corner from the historic Homestead Resort — eventually will have 450 home sites.

The recession, however, has slowed progress. More than 150 lots have been sold, and 28 custom homes have been constructed. “It’s pretty difficult, and we expect it to stay slow for another year or so.” acknowledges Don Killoren, a founding principal of Celebration Associates and co-general manager of Homestead Preserve. “There’s not much we really can do. Borrowing for a second home or vacation home is pretty challenging today.”


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