By Debbie Adams
“Another drawing card bringing people to the Town of Vinton,” was Councilman Mike Stovall’s response to the news at the July 20 council meeting that the town has found a purchaser for six parcels of land in downtown Vinton for the purpose of building a hotel.
Vinton is home to many wedding and special events venues, Rosie’s Gaming Emporium, the Lancerlot Sports Complex, and Vinyard Park and its soccer fields; it is within shouting distance of Explore Park and the Blue Ridge Parkway, and in close proximity to Smith Mountain—with nowhere to house visitors.
The hotel property is located within the intersection of South Pollard Street, Cedar Avenue, and 1st Street at the Virginia Avenue Gateway into the town. The parcels were purchased by the town in 2018 and 2019 for the purpose of recruiting a much-needed hotel to be constructed on the site. (One parcel was donated by nearby Wells Fargo Bank.) Environmental assessments and hotel market studies were completed, structures on the properties were demolished, and a conceptual plan was developed for the site.
The town issued a Request for Proposals in May 2021 and received two formal proposals to develop a limited-service hotel. After review by the town’s Economic Development Committee, the town selected The McDevitt Company as the developer.
McDevitt has agreed to terms of a Contract of Sale that provides a six-month due diligence period (similar to the Gish Mill agreement). It includes negotiating terms of a performance agreement with development incentive grants (with the town, Roanoke County, and the Roanoke County Economic Development Authority), finalizing building plans, making site improvements, and securing a hotel franchise for the property.
The purchase price of the property is $10, with an estimated $12 million investment expected. The hotel is expected to generate $490,000 in annual revenue for Vinton and Roanoke County.
The hotel development will help diversify Vinton’s economy by generating Transient Occupancy Tax; support further development of Explore Park; support Vinton and East County wedding venues, restaurants, and the service industry; support regional sports marketing efforts; and retain visitor spending from regional events, area attractions, the lake, and the parkway. A hotel will keep dollars in the town.
Town Manager Pete Peters says McDevitt “can walk” if franchising doesn’t work out, but this contract sale “gives a green light to the project.”
A public hearing was held at the July 20 council meeting to solicit public input on the project with no comments received.
The Contract of Sale states that McDevitt intends to develop the property into a mid-scale hotel with between 90 and 120 rooms, consisting of a limited-service hotel brand such as a Hilton, Marriott, or Wyndham property. The contract does not obligate McDevitt to any particular franchise. The hotel is expected to include amenities such as a swimming pool, business center, rooftop deck or lounge, meeting space, a fitness center, and outdoor landscaped green spaces. The hotel is expected to fit with the aesthetics of the town established by the Vinton Library and Vinyard Station.
The town intends to close and abandon a portion of 1st Street between Virginia and Cedar Avenues and deed the street to the buyer at closing.
The Contract of Sale enables the developer to secure private financing, to secure a hotel franchise, and to design and engineer a site plan while Performance Incentives are negotiated. It, in essence, locks up the property for the developers.
The McDevitt Company, based in Pennsylvania, will work with Soundvue Development LLC. In fact, the project came to the table because of the presence of Rosie’s Gaming Emporium in Vinton, which got the attention of McDevitt and Soundvue, who had worked with them on a previous development. McDevitt and Soundvue came to see the potential in the local market. “Rosie’s got them to the table; the market potential got them over the edge,” Peters said.
The project had its beginnings in 2016 with a market study jointly funded by the town and Roanoke County. It was determined that there was a need for a hotel in Vinton—not because of corporate or commercial travel as in most communities—but because of the social event and recreation venues in the town or close by, varied industry and technology in close proximity, highly developed commercial corridors, and the opportunity for strong family and business referrals.
The hotel study recommended a national brand hotel, situated on 1.5 to 2 acres (the selected site is just shy of two acres), in a high traffic/high visibility area. Eight sites were initially evaluated. The study indicated a “very good to excellent potential” for the success of a hotel venture in Vinton.
Peters said this project was a long six years in the making, delayed by the pandemic after a hotel study had been completed, but now back on track. Town staff and Town Council were “persistent and patient” in the process. Mayor Brad Grose described the signing of the contract as a “celebration of years of hard work.”
In other actions at the council meeting, retiring Roanoke Valley Greenway Coordinator Liz Belcher was recognized by Town Council with a proclamation honoring her years of service to the region since 1996. She has played an integral role in the growth and development of greenways and trails in the Town of Vinton including the Wolf Creek Greenway in 1999, Gladetown Trail in 2012, Glade Creek Greenway Phase I in 2017, and Glade Creek Greenway Phase IIA in 2021, with Phase IIB to be completed in 2022.
Former Vinton Councilwoman Janet Scheid said that she “did not know of anyone who has changed the face of the Roanoke Valley more than Liz.”
Public Works Director Bo Herndon recognized four Public Works employees for their actions on June 29 as they were dealing with a water main break. Kevin Orange, Tyler Beard, Andrew Critcher, and Robert Rowell assisted Pat Davidson whose car had broken down on Mountain View Road. They got her out of the car, out of the roadway, and safely on her way. She called the town to thank the employees for their efforts.
Councilwoman Laurie Mullins said, “This is just one incident; Public Works employees go above and beyond everyday” for the citizens of Vinton.
Assistant Town Manager Cody Sexton asked council to approve an amendment to the FY2021-2022 budget to accept and appropriate funds in the amount of $4.2 million from the federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) after a public hearing and a previous June briefing. This makes the funds available for spending.
Sexton said the town has no “concrete plans” as of yet for how the funds will be used, but this action gives the town flexibility as projects arise. He expects the second installment of another $4.2 million in June 2022.
After public hearings, council also adopted resolutions presented by Finance Director Anne Cantrell appropriating funding to cover capital improvement projects and additional position funding not to exceed $1.2 million and raising rate charges for contractual services by the Vinton Police Department. Rates were raised from $48 per hour to $52 per hour with a two-hour minimum. This brings the town’s charges into alignment with surrounding jurisdictions.
Sexton briefed council on three positions to be created: Police Officer 1 and Capital Projects Manager and Utility Clerk in Public Works. ARPA funds can be used for these positions to “bring the highest level of service to citizens.” The town would not be bound to fill the positions created.
Council authorized the town manager to file an application for Virginia Stormwater Local Assistance Fund (SLAF) funds for the Woodland Place Stream Restoration Project, discussed extensively at a previous council meeting.
Council approved payment of $3,427 to Vinton Baptist Church as a Parking and Maintenance Contribution Agreement between the town and the church, which allows its parking lot to be used for business parking and special downtown events.
Cantrell reported the town has cash-on-hand of $5.6 million and investments of $3.2 million for a total of $8.9 million.