Huff Lane Property Offers Included National College

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by Valerie Garner

If everything falls into place,  a total of seven hotels will surround Valley View Mall.

The Roanoke City School Board voted to close Huff Lane Intermediate school in June 2010. The 5.3-acre tract with building “as-is” was put in the city’s hands in March 2011 and marketed from April to October 2011.

Out of seven offers the highest bid over the $1.5 million minimum was submitted by Hitesh Patel CEO of HMP Properties of Williamsburg at $1.85 million, according to the documents viewed at the Department of Economic Development.

The documents show two hotels and a restaurant to be constructed in phases. Immediately after closing construction will begin on an 100 room hotel similar to a Hampton Inn and Suites. The second hotel is expected to be like a Home2 Suites Extended Stay by Hilton that will be constructed 2-3 years later. The restaurant will be marketed immediately.

Another offer considered was for a 112-room Hilton Garden Inn and two 8000 square foot restaurants at $1.6 million. The parking area was extensive and included a signal light at the entrance.

Another rendering was all retail with one large single-story 27,000 square foot box store, another retail store and restaurant. It too included a stop light entrance. The offer was $1.5 million.  There was interest in obtaining the park area as well.

Other similar offers for the property came in except some wanted more of the property and others wanted to relocate the ball fields to the school site and use the rectangular park area.

Two came in under the minimum bid including National College. Their proposal would have renovated and expanded the existing school building to serve as a “central campus for medical career programs.” They would have initially invested up to $4 million.

National College wrote that after full development they expected “The National Medical Career Institute” to accommodate up to 700 students in day, evening and weekend classes. It would also have housed the central financial offices for its 29 campus locations. National College President Frank Longaker said that, “We felt that our proposal for a medical careers campus was not only more forward-thinking [ but also much more in keeping with the nature of the surrounding neighborhoods and original school on the site. There’s more the city can benefit from than simple sales tax revenue when one considers the jobs that future graduates of our proposed campus would bring in.  Our current campus in Salem has an annual economic impact of approximately $25 million annually; our proposed new location would, within a few years, have [had] a comparable impact.”

National College was the only offer that was academic related but their offer was almost $500,000 below the minimum bid. According to Rob Ledger Economic Development director, the minimum bid was set by the city’s contracted broker and city staff. Ledger felt that the $1.5 minimum did not prohibit adaptive reuse of the school building, as it would have eliminated the need for demolition.

Roanoke City Council voted unanimously for the hotels and according to Ledger they saw all seven proposals in closed session. HMP has yet to complete it’s due diligence before requesting rezoning that will fulfill the contingencies of the contract.

In March of 2011 prior to accepting offers, Councilman Court Rosen presented a rendering showing two hotels that in the final award somewhat matched that of the HMP offer and eventually the parcel was sought for a hotel concept. Rosen said that he, “met with a ton of people in commercial real estate … school facilities people, the building facilities people and talked to neighborhoods.”

Poe and Cronk submitted HMP’s offer the following September and the neighborhood was shown the proposal on January 10. Ledger told the neighbors that “leveraging the value of commercial property and the sustainability of increased tax revenue in order to keep the schools well funded” was the deciding factor. The proceeds will go to increasing capacity at Round Hill.

In it’s offer HMP Properties estimated annual occupancy and real estate tax revenue to the city of over $700,000.

A Hampton Inn and Suites is going before the Planning Commission for rezoning on May 17. It will take the place of the closed Bonefish Grill and Texas Steakhouse. These three new hotels will join Best Western, Hyatt Place, Comfort Inn and Mainstay Suites surrounding Valley View Mall.