Roanoke Days Inn-Civic Center Rises From The Ashes

Ssunny Shad (second from right) celebrates his grand reopening.

by Gene Marrano

Just one day before its scheduled reopening on January 18, the Days Inn Civic Center on Orange Avenue was the site of a major fire that destroyed 81 rooms, about half of the hotel’s total, causing $2.4 million in damage. Property owner Ssunny Shah (the extra “S” is intentional), who had purchased the hotel several months previously and found its condition “simply unacceptable,” went back to work with his team, remodeling it for a second time. The wallpaper in rooms, carpeting, furniture and air conditioning system are all new.

After a seven month delay, the Days Inn is open for business once again. Shah celebrated with a ribbon cutting last week, an event hailed as another economic boost for the City of Roanoke.  Speakers at the delayed grand reopening included City Manager Chris Morrill, Mayor David Bowers and State Senator John Edwards.

Shah, who also owns the Ramada Inn/Conference Center on Franklin Road, the Howard Johnson-Airport and the Days Inn-Daleville, was all smiles as he offered tours of newly appointed rooms and lunch to a tent full of invited guests.  He also had praise for his staff, 17 or so among all his properties (from almost 80) that have worked for him for more than 10 years. He has 19 employed at the Days Inn-Civic Center.

“This day would not have been possible without the help of many people,” said Shah; “we came together as a team.” The long time Roanoker, who has been in the valley for almost twenty years, praised Morrill and the can-do attitude of Roanoke City staffers that were always on the spot and quick to act when inspections were needed to keep the renovation process rolling along. “We partnered [with Shah] and tried to support him with that,” Morrill said of the cooperative role the city had in the project.

“They touched my heart,” said Shah of the city staff. He is now a board member for the Roanoke Valley Visitors & Convention Bureau as well. Executive Director Landon Howard also spoke at the ribbon cutting. “It’s just remarkable what everybody here has done to make a huge difference in this property,” noted Howard, who is pleased to have another downtown hotel (rooms are moderately priced, starting around $50) that he can market to out-of-towners. “The location helps us tremendously.”

Tourism in the valley is worth $600 million a year according to Howard, generating more than four million dollars in annual tax revenues for the city. With people like Shah on board, “you see the vision of where we are headed.”

Morrill claimed it was critical “that we have people like Mr. Shah” in the valley, an unabashed booster for his adopted hometown. Morrill said downtown Roanoke could still use several more hotels/motels, featuring perhaps another 300-400 beds, before reaching a saturation point. The Days Inn-Civic Center “is another piece in that puzzle.”

Morrill added, “Projects like this … are an asset for the entire region. There is a momentum picking up. We are on a path to the world knowing what we have here [in Roanoke].” Opened several weeks ago, the Days Inn-Civic Center was already able to cash in with reservations for last weekend’s Jehovah’s Witness convention and the upcoming Commonwealth Games.

John Edwards called Shah’s hotel “the perfect location for the [adjacent] Civic Center.” He said the remodeling after the major fire meant the property had been “developed literally from the ashes.” A construction worker may inadvertently have started the blaze, which was discovered as final inspections before the January 18 opening were taking place.

David Bowers recalled seeing the smoke from his house on Mill Mountain. He termed the reopening “like a Phoenix rising up from the ashes,” and thanked Shah for his investment in the property.

“We will make Roanoke a destination place,” vowed Shah, who wants to make the Days Inn-Civic Center and his other properties a destination for some of those visitors.

 

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