An under-utilized hotel on Richmond Road will be rejuvenated with a new development designed for students of the College of William and Mary.
A proposal before the Williamsburg planning commission would add student housing at the current location of the Quality Inn and Suites, situated on Richmond Road near High Street.
Real estate developer and planning commission member Demetrios Florakis proposes to convert the 118-bedroom hotel into a 94-bedroom student apartment complex called City Lofts. The complex would include wireless internet, fitness rooms, a computer lounge, a dining area, study rooms, a swimming pool and a bike garage. Florakis hopes to complete the project by April 2013.
Unlike Tribe Square, City Lofts is independent of the College and therefore will not be included in the lottery system, offering an off-campus option for waitlisted students.
“It’s projects like these that showcase the progress that the city is making,” planning commission member Chris Connolly ’15 said in an email. “City Lofts is a step in the right direction in helping to address the lack of variety in off-campus student housing.”
The proposal includes space for one property manager and four Resident Community Assistants to help with security and management. Florakis plans to have students serve as Resident Community Assistants, but he has not finalized management.
The College is expected to add 150 additional in-state undergraduates over the next three years, which will put pressure on the limited on-campus housing spots. The recent addition of Tribe Square and the new fraternity housing complex are expected to alleviate some of the pressure, but off-campus housing options still remain popular among students.
“[The Quality Inn and Suites] is an under-performing hotel, so as a reuse for the property, I thought it was the highest investment,” Florakis said. “Our hope is that by delivering this capacity to the market, it will help relieve some pressure on existing neighborhoods. There’s also a strong demand for student rentals.”
City Lofts joins another proposed mixed-use development on Prince George Street as one of the newest off-campus options for students. The proposed development on Prince George Street will add seven apartments plus additional commercial space.
Williamsburg City Council members noted that the new housing will help the College and ease town-gown relations.
“There’s more than sufficient parking on the site, there’s great access to campus, it’s not in the middle of a neighborhood, and if we could put more beds in that property, that’s additional pressure that gets taken off of the neighborhoods,” Vice Mayor Paul Freiling ’83 said. “It’s not forcing anyone to live there, it’s just another option for students who are either bumped off campus by the lottery system or choose to live off campus because they want a little more independence.”
The new housing complex also will have additional benefits for the surrounding area.
“The subsequent increase in student presence in the High Street area will also benefit the City economically, as more restaurants and businesses will cater to the additional demand for their services,” Connolly said in an email.
A public hearing about the proposal to rezone the area for the new development will be held at the planning commission meeting May 16. The commission will either approve or reject the project at that time. If the proposal is accepted, the council will vote to either accept or reject the proposal at a later time.
“When you look at the proposal, there are only up-sides,” Connolly said. “We’ll probably move to the consensus that this is what’s best for the community as a whole.”
Williamsburg City Council members showed support for the proposed building at the recent candidate forum sponsored by Matoaka Court Homeowners’s Association.
“They are creating positive housing options for students that they will more than likely be drawn to rather than living in some of the less-than-ideal circumstances that they feel forced into since they want to live close to campus,” Freiling said. “Let’s get behind this proposal and make it happen.”
Williamsburg Mayor Clyde Haulman also noted the benefits of the development.
“It takes pressure off of the other housing options that students look at,” Haulman said. “It’s a plus for students, it’s a plus for High Street and it’s a plus for the community as a whole.”
Pending approval by the planning commission, Florakis hopes the new real estate development will help ease the concerns about off-campus housing for students.
“What we’re hoping is that by providing this type of environment, we could create a nice sense of community,” Florakis said. “It creates a lot of options for students that currently do not exist.”