South Boston hotel springs back to life
A steady stream of developers considered purchasing South Boston’s long-shuttered John Randolph Hotel during the past decade, but none sealed the deal until Julian and Karie Brittano toured the downtown property last fall.
This spring, the couple’s High Point, North Carolina-based firm, The Brittano Group Inc., and its subsidiary, The Rook Hotels, entered into a private-public partnership with the town to redevelop the four-story building into a boutique hotel with 32-plus rooms and a rooftop bar under the name “The Rook at South Boston.” A city-owned building adjacent to the hotel will be revamped into a restaurant and conference center. Construction is slated to start this summer and take about two years.
Karie Brittano, a licensed general contractor, had been an adjunct professor at Danville Community College where she worked with Brian Jackson, the college’s vice president of workforce services. Jackson knew of the couple’s interest in economic revitalization and told them about the hotel.
“Its historical content drew me in,” says Karie Brittano, who envisions combining the Depression-era hotel’s past with its proximity to the South Boston Speedway and Virginia International Raceway. “We want to have a historical feel where old world meets new world, including a tie-in with the raceway and checkered flags.”
Built in 1929, the John Randolph Hotel is the largest building in downtown South Boston but has sat empty since closing more than 30 years ago. The Halifax Industrial Development Authority acquired the property in 2011 and gutted the interior in preparation for redevelopment.
Julian Brittano has traveled throughout Southern Virginia scouting locations for filming upcoming TV pilots. “Exciting things are happening in Southern Virginia with the speedway and the raceway,” he says. “South Boston is a great central location, and the hotel will be the anchor of a new downtown.”
IDA Executive Director Kristy Johnson says the boutique hotel will be a turning point for downtown South Boston, which has seen a flurry of recent small retail and restaurant investments. “A redeveloped hotel that’s a boutique hotel adds a very cool downtown vibe,” she says. “Any investment into the area benefits our community as a whole.”
Town Manager Tom Raab estimates the renovation will cost about $11 million. The town has obtained more than $650,000 in grants, and the IDA, which owns the hotel, has applied for state industrial revitalization funds.