Some are crying foul. Representatives from Richmond's leading preservationist groups including Ivor Massey Jr., president of The Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities met with Morgan last week to stop the project. Plans to destroy the hotel are not only wrongheaded, the groups say, but they sidestep state law that requires an architectural and historical review of the property beforehand.
Before any building on state property can be removed, Massey says, the Virginia Department of Historic Resources must have the opportunity to review the plans. In the case of the Murphy Hotel, preservationists say that review didn't take place.
"The bill was introduced with no opportunities for comment," says Don Charles, executive director of the Historic Richmond Foundation. "This is the crisis of the moment, I think."
Jennie Dotts, executive director the Alliance to Conserve Old Richmond Neighborhoods, says the effort is emblematic of how the state is running roughshod over the city's most historic buildings. Plans to demolish the Murphy Hotel, and eventually the Richmond Hotel a block away facing Ninth Street, have moved forward without any real public input or review. She says several developers have contacted her with interest in developing the property, if the state were to consider a possible public-private partnership. There are other alternatives, she says.
"The buildings can be saved, they can be income-producing, and they can help repopulate downtown [as condominiums]," Dotts says.
According to the state's Department of General Services, it would cost $34.9 million to repair and renovate the Murphy Hotel to make it suitable for office space. The state deems that amount too expensive.
After last week's meeting with the preservationists, Morgan said he wanted to consult with the state agencies involved and discuss possible alternatives before moving forward. "I don't want to see it demolished," Morgan says. "Up until last week or so ago, I was not aware that there were alternatives." Scott Bass
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