The COVID-19 pandemic and an upcoming casino have developers of a second boutique hotel in Danville rethinking their plans.
“It could be something other than the boutique hotel,” said Brent Cochran, one of the principals for the redevelopment plans at the Doctors Building on Main Street in Danville.
Ed Walker, the developer behind the recently completed The Bee boutique hotel on South Union Street, initially planned to turn the brick building across from the Danville Museum of Fine Arts and History into a similar facility, with as many as 40 suites.
The structure and an annex, which total 30,000 square feet, were built in 1957 and formerly housed doctors offices, but the property has been vacant since January 2019. Walker bought the building Nov. 30, 2018.
During a an interview with the Register & Bee in July 2019 Walker defined “boutique hotel” as one that is locally focused, not a chain establishment, and containing high-end furniture and fixtures and lots of landscaping.
But the COVID-19 pandemic and city voters’ approval in November of a Caesars Virginia casino resort in Schoolfield — which would include a 300-room hotel — have changed the landscape, Cochran said.
“It’s [the pandemic has] just slowed down our development time cycle,” Cochran said, adding developers still hope to start construction at the Doctors Building sometime this year. “We still plan on redeveloping the building. We’re contemplating all options, and we’re still in the planning phase. We’re literally just finishing up The Bee.”
A hospitality study in 2019 found the city could accommodate up to 100 more hotel rooms, taking into account the The Bee and the Hampton Inn that was being built on Riverside Drive. But that was before the casino was approved, Danville Economic Development Director Corrie T. Bobe said.
“Those data points will have to be reevaluated,” Bobe said during an interview in her office Thursday.
She said the pandemic has made projects more difficult to finance, but an increased volume of visitors to the city because of the Caesars Virginia casino — which is expected to open in 2023 — would make Danville more attractive for additional lodging options.
Cochran said the developers will gather all the information they can and make the best decision possible on what to bring to the building.
“We’re living in very uncertain times,” he said. “We don’t know exactly what the final building will be.”
Bobe said she is is hopeful about the possibilities.
“I’m confident their team is evaluating the current market and will move forward and adjust their plans accordingly,” she said.