Main Street retail space getting an Airbnb conversion

The former Lunar Hippie building in the Fan will be converted to be an Airbnb apartment. (Photos by Mike Platania)

The allure of owning an Airbnb rental has motivated a local businessman to snag a recently vacated Fan retail property — polar bear included.

The former Lunar Hippie building at 2528 W. Main St. was purchased last month by David Battiston, who owns salon and spa Stylepod at 3316 W. Cary St. in Carytown and nearby salon Imago at 2602 W. Main St.

Battiston bought the 1,900-square-foot building on Dec. 17 for $358,000, according to city property records.

Dave Battiston

He said he’s converting the downstairs retail space, which had been Lunar Hippie’s home until last summer, into a two-bedroom unit to be listed on Airbnb.

“It wasn’t my initial idea to (make it for Airbnb),” he said. “But when I found out the property is zoned for it, I thought it’d be a good choice. Initially I was going to put another massage practice in there.”

Also included in the deal is the large polar bear sculpture that sits in front of the building. It was left there by Lunar Hippie, which rescued it after a nearby HVAC company dumped it.

Battiston said the polar bear will stick around and he wants to incorporate it into the interior design of the rental unit.

“I know the polar bear has a following in town,” he said, laughing.

In 2012, Battiston opened Stylepod in Carytown.

Airbnb’s website shows about 300 spaces available for rent throughout the Richmond region, the majority of which are inside city limits. Spaces listed in the Fan and Museum District on Airbnb rent for around $50 to $120 per night.

The building also has a two-bedroom apartment unit upstairs, which Battiston said he’ll look to rent out traditionally.

Johannas Design Group has been hired to design the Airbnb unit and Battiston said he’s currently seeking a contractor for the work.

Across N. Robinson St., Battiston also owns hair salon Imago and its building.

Battiston opened Stylepod about five years ago. Two years later, he opened Carytown Massage, a tenant within Stylepod. Imago opened in 2010.

The intersection of Main and Robinson streets has seen a bit of churn lately.

Brunch opened this month at 2600 W. Main St. At the end of 2018, Black Swan Books closed at 2601 W. Main St., and a to-be-named specialty market has filed paperwork to open in the space.

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16 Comments on "Main Street retail space getting an Airbnb conversion"

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Michael Dodson
Guest

So is he going to get the city to adopt an Airbnb ordinance or ask for a variance?

Richmond doesn’t have an ordinance, nor does Henrico, which makes all Airbnbs illegal.

Matt Faris
Guest

It seems like the City needs to create their registry as allowed by the past GA so that they can gain some leverage in setting up control of the hundreds of STRs already in the city.

Ed Christina
Guest

sorry, STR?

Matt Faris
Guest

Short term rental

Michael Dodson
Guest
Completely agree Matt. I have pushed my Council and asked staff at the Mayor’s Office Hours with hollow promises. I do support STRs, I just think it is funny someone would run an article about an illegal activity they are planning at their property especially after the floor collapse in Church Hill at an AirBnB. Insurance is certainly not going to cover you for damages or loss if your use is illegal and prohibited. I am also amazed the article says the property (and owner said it) is “zoned for it” which is not true. We have no STR ordinance,… Read more »
Bob Fishman
Guest

The article notes that there are hundreds of Airbnbs operating already. Why would Battiston need to get the city to do anything before beginning his operation given that there are hundreds of others already operating Airbnbs in town?

Matt Faris
Guest

Bob, I think the bigger question is whether one would spend money on a venture that has no assurance of operating, given the lack of a formal city position. If the city were to limit areas for these uses when and if they got around to addressing the issue, it seems like a gamble that the use would be permissible. Someone renting a room in their existing home would carry little or no risk if this should happen.

Michael Dodson
Guest
I know there are couple drug dens, meth labs, bars that have online gambling machines, and personally my neighbor had a speakeasy (billiards and mixed drink sold by the glass) in his basement that are all around the City. Does not make them legal. If subdivide my home into apartments, I bet I can rent them out easily but still be illegal. And again after incident in Church Hill with the floor collapse and injuries; if a AirBnB users trips and breaks their arm on the stairs the owner won’t be able to rely on his insurance coverage as the… Read more »
Lola Carter
Guest

Why does it matter to any of you? If at some point he cannot operate the downstairs as an AirBnB due to a city ordinance restriction he can rent the space as a normal rental apartment.
Such conversation and fretting over something that is irrelevant. Let the owner do what he wants.

Matt Faris
Guest

Lola, I agree that he can and should do whatever he wants to do. My comments are merely observations and part of a discussion. I learn a lot from others, and hope that my experiences may help others do the same. Please look at it as more of an open discussion for the benefit of all, as opposed to a condemnation of anyone.

MIchael Dodson
Guest
First, I am not opposed to AirBnB. My point is it is illegal because like on SO many other issues RIchmond can’t seem to adopt the basics. Lynchburg, Roanoke, VA Beach and others have AirBnB ordinances. Roanoke adopted theirs with in months of state law becoming effective in July 2017. Second, NIMBY might be around but I have not heard of large scale concern with AirBnBs in the City. And its hard to form support or objection to an issue when there is NO policy from the leadership. Our Mayor and his staff (and previous Jones admin) have never put… Read more »
Ed Christina
Guest

Michael: first, i need to hand out with you at one of these underground gambling dens. Second, i did a quick google search and it seems AirBnB includes insurance.
As far as what happened at Church hill, was i a building code issue more than anything else? A building should not just collapse.

charles Frankenhoff
Guest

I wouldn’t say that was necessarily a building code issue. A building should certainly not just collapse. But on the other hand most houses aren’t built to hold hundreds of people jumping up and down – you can overload just about anything. The issue on Church Hill doesn’t seem like a building issue, but a teenage party issue.

Bob Fishman
Guest
Drug Dens and meth labs are not legal in other jurisdictions that I know of, so that comparison doesn’t really make sense, but I understand the line of thinking in general. The insurance question is an interesting one as you and others have pointed out. Airbnb does offer insurance coverage, but they do not like to provide much if any detail on the policy wording. There are insurance carriers that provide coverage to bnb hosts, in the host’s name or business name, in many venues. Different carriers have different appetites and they can underwrite for venues that do not have… Read more »
Matt Klaman
Guest

Given the article, I’m not sure he gives two F’s about it and I’m right there with him. Did Bird give a crap about Richmond saying “no” and taking their scooters? Nope. Richmond will continue to sit stagnant because of the NIMBY’s and the inaction/delay on literally everything that passes through city hall. It’s actually extremely refreshing that some people aren’t sitting around idle waiting on the city.

MIchael Dodson
Guest

So very true. City Hall is where items die or get stuck in a black hole. On AirBnBs the city staff and Mayor’s have never even proposed anything. Nor explained why they have never put forward anything. Maybe something will change.

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