After a long trek, hostel project moves forward

Photos by Burl Rolett.

Hostelling International’s Richmond project is expected to fit 58 guests in the city’s first hostel. Photos by Burl Rolett.

By next summer, $25 could buy a night’s stay in downtown Richmond.

Hostelling International, a nonprofit that operates about 4,000 hostels worldwide and 55 nationally, has started work on Richmond’s first hostel. The group began demolition at the former Otis Elevators building at 7 N. 2nd St. this month in hopes of a July 2015 opening.

Russ Hedge, CEO of Hostelling International, said the organization likes the 13,800-square-foot, two-story building because it is central to Richmond attractions that are appealing to a hostel’s core demographic: young, active travelers on a budget.

“It’s close to the VCU campus, it’s a nice central location that provides access to the campus as well as downtown, the river and recreational pursuits,” he said.

Building the hostel will cost about $2.8 million, Hedge said. Hostelling International is putting up $1.8 million. Local fundraising will have to make up the difference, and Hostelling International has set a $950,000 goal for donations.

Richmond businessman and philanthropist Jim Ukrop pitched in $25,000 last week.

Hedge expects about $300,000 in historic tax credits from the renovation and another $100,000 or so in grants to knock out a large chunk of the fundraising goal.

The current construction schedule will have the hostel open in time for the World Road Cycling Championships in September 2015.

About eight or nine years ago, a group of volunteers began looking into bringing a hostel to Richmond. At the time, they were working with a now-defunct local chapter of Hostelling International.

Hostel

Hostelling International is seeking a total of $950,000 in donations to finish the project.

Hostelling International’s Potomac Area Council, which governed the Richmond area, bought the Otis Elevator building in September 2011 for $525,000. The council was then absorbed into Hostelling International’s centralized governing body.

Jennifer Wampler, a volunteer who helped hatch the hostel idea, said the ownership structure for the 2nd Street building wasn’t finalized until 2013.

“That was a big delay for us,” Wampler said. “Until we all became one and worked through that process, we couldn’t really fundraise or do anything to push it forward.”

The finished hostel will have 58 beds in 14 rooms. Hedge estimated beds will rent at about $25 per night.

The building will also have a self-service kitchen, a common room and an enclosed outdoor veranda, shared spaces that Wampler said are essential to the hostel environment.

“We’re short-term, budget-oriented, shared accommodations,” she said. “With emphasis on the shared part.”

Hedge plans to host cultural exchange programs at the hostel, which could include international education seminars and neighborhood exchange programs that would bring kids from different parts of Richmond to the hostel for an overnight stay.

There are plenty of other lodging options popping up in Richmond, especially in the downtown area. A dual hotel building is rising at 14th and Cary streets, and Shamin Hotels has another two in the works at 7th and Main. Ted Ukrop is beginning work on a new downtown hotel at Jefferson and Broad.

But Hedge doesn’t think the hostel will run into competition from the crop of new hotels. The hostel concept, he said, shoots for a different clientele as well as a lower price point.

“The folks we serve are typically 18- to 30-year-olds on a budget, so you’ll get college students who are coming into town and staying until their dorm opens, you’re getting people who have a job but need a place to stay for a few weeks, and then you have international travelers who are traveling on $1,000 for their entire trip,” he said.

Hedge added the hostel could draw tourists back to Richmond years later when they may have a little more money to spend.

“You put a hostel in a city and young people with a limited budget come to the city. And 10 years, 20 years later, they come back,” he said. “In some ways, this hostel is about not only tourism now, but for the future.”

Photos by Burl Rolett.

Hostelling International’s Richmond project is expected to fit 58 guests in the city’s first hostel. Photos by Burl Rolett.

By next summer, $25 could buy a night’s stay in downtown Richmond.

Hostelling International, a nonprofit that operates about 4,000 hostels worldwide and 55 nationally, has started work on Richmond’s first hostel. The group began demolition at the former Otis Elevators building at 7 N. 2nd St. this month in hopes of a July 2015 opening.

Russ Hedge, CEO of Hostelling International, said the organization likes the 13,800-square-foot, two-story building because it is central to Richmond attractions that are appealing to a hostel’s core demographic: young, active travelers on a budget.

“It’s close to the VCU campus, it’s a nice central location that provides access to the campus as well as downtown, the river and recreational pursuits,” he said.

Building the hostel will cost about $2.8 million, Hedge said. Hostelling International is putting up $1.8 million. Local fundraising will have to make up the difference, and Hostelling International has set a $950,000 goal for donations.

Richmond businessman and philanthropist Jim Ukrop pitched in $25,000 last week.

Hedge expects about $300,000 in historic tax credits from the renovation and another $100,000 or so in grants to knock out a large chunk of the fundraising goal.

The current construction schedule will have the hostel open in time for the World Road Cycling Championships in September 2015.

About eight or nine years ago, a group of volunteers began looking into bringing a hostel to Richmond. At the time, they were working with a now-defunct local chapter of Hostelling International.

Hostel

Hostelling International is seeking a total of $950,000 in donations to finish the project.

Hostelling International’s Potomac Area Council, which governed the Richmond area, bought the Otis Elevator building in September 2011 for $525,000. The council was then absorbed into Hostelling International’s centralized governing body.

Jennifer Wampler, a volunteer who helped hatch the hostel idea, said the ownership structure for the 2nd Street building wasn’t finalized until 2013.

“That was a big delay for us,” Wampler said. “Until we all became one and worked through that process, we couldn’t really fundraise or do anything to push it forward.”

The finished hostel will have 58 beds in 14 rooms. Hedge estimated beds will rent at about $25 per night.

The building will also have a self-service kitchen, a common room and an enclosed outdoor veranda, shared spaces that Wampler said are essential to the hostel environment.

“We’re short-term, budget-oriented, shared accommodations,” she said. “With emphasis on the shared part.”

Hedge plans to host cultural exchange programs at the hostel, which could include international education seminars and neighborhood exchange programs that would bring kids from different parts of Richmond to the hostel for an overnight stay.

There are plenty of other lodging options popping up in Richmond, especially in the downtown area. A dual hotel building is rising at 14th and Cary streets, and Shamin Hotels has another two in the works at 7th and Main. Ted Ukrop is beginning work on a new downtown hotel at Jefferson and Broad.

But Hedge doesn’t think the hostel will run into competition from the crop of new hotels. The hostel concept, he said, shoots for a different clientele as well as a lower price point.

“The folks we serve are typically 18- to 30-year-olds on a budget, so you’ll get college students who are coming into town and staying until their dorm opens, you’re getting people who have a job but need a place to stay for a few weeks, and then you have international travelers who are traveling on $1,000 for their entire trip,” he said.

Hedge added the hostel could draw tourists back to Richmond years later when they may have a little more money to spend.

“You put a hostel in a city and young people with a limited budget come to the city. And 10 years, 20 years later, they come back,” he said. “In some ways, this hostel is about not only tourism now, but for the future.”

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