Richmond developers bet big on small town


A local investment group that includes some longtime Richmond developers is planning a $28 million hotel project in Staunton.

Blackburn Inn Associates LLC, which includes developer Robin Miller and Chesterfield Supervisor Dan Gecker, announced Tuesday that it plans to turn three old properties in Staunton into a 102-room called the Blackburn Inn & Spa.

Miller and Gecker have worked together on a handful of historic renovation projects in Richmond financed in part by historic tax credits.

The pair also run Village Development Associates, which converted the former Western State mental hospital into the Villages at Staunton. That 80-acre project aims to be a town-center-type development in downtown Staunton.

Piedmont Capital Partners, a local investment and capital firm run by Stan Manoogian, helped facilitate the hotel deal. Piedmont will also be an investor in the hotel project, Manoogian said.

“We put a group together to do the financing,” Manoogian said. “It’s a pretty broad group of investors.”

Manoogian, who helped start the local private equity fund Markel|Eagle Partners, wouldn’t disclose the names of other investors in the Staunton project.

Miller also declined to name the other investors involved.

The hotel site will consist of three historic Staunton buildings that will be renovated. The investment group is still in the process of purchasing the properties, Manoogian said.

There is another hotel — the Stonewall Jackson — less than a mile away.

The buildings date to before the Civil War and are registered as state and federal historic properties. The developers will therefore seek state and federal historic tax credits on the project.

The historic tax credit process allows developers to receive up to 45 percent of their development costs back in the form of credits. Those credits are typically sold off to investors that use the credits to help defray their taxes.

The $28 million will come from a combination of equity from the investors and bank financing, Miller said.

Charlestown Hotels, a South Carolina hotelier, will manage the Blackburn Inn.

Construction on the project is set to begin in the second quarter, with a planned opening for the hotel in third quarter 2013, Manoogian said.

The hotel is being named for Thomas R. Blackburn, a Virginia architect known for working with Thomas Jefferson on the construction of the University of Virginia.

Blackburn was also the architect on the buildings that will become the hotel.

Gecker and Miller began discussions about the project with Piedmont about a year ago, Manoogian said.

Miller said that he and Gecker have wanted to get the hotel going for about four years but that the recession got in the way.

The pair bought the land for the Village from the city of Staunton about six years ago.

They have completed four buildings at the development.

They recently sold another 42,000-square-foot building there, although Miller wouldn’t elaborate on the sale.

Miller says he’s very bullish on Staunton.

“In my view, it’s the smallest cool city in the state.”

He wouldn’t say how much has been invested in the Village, but when it’s all said and done, it will be in the ballpark of $80 million to $100 million.

“When we got it, we recognized it was a 20-year project, and we’re about five or six years in.”


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3 Comments on "Richmond developers bet big on small town"

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Betsy Fralin

Do you know yet who the interior designers/architects are for this project?

Margarita Jerabek Wuellner, Ph.D.
Margarita Jerabek Wuellner, Ph.D.

I surveyed and evaluated these properties back in the late 1980s for state and federal historic designation. It is interesting to observe these new developments!

Kathy Toms

Glad to see that my great, great, great grandfather, Thomas Blackburn, work’s is being appreciated.