Hostel Backers Pitch Richmond as World Connector 

click to enlarge Faye Hager and Jim Ukrop celebrate the ceremonial groundbreaking of a 50-bed hostel aiming to open in 2015.

Scott Elmquist

Faye Hager and Jim Ukrop celebrate the ceremonial groundbreaking of a 50-bed hostel aiming to open in 2015.

Supporters of a project to bring a hostel to Richmond held a ceremonial groundbreaking Friday, saying their vision of a city better connected to travelers on a budget is nearing reality.

What started about 10 years ago as a community effort by bicycling advocates and others has gained some well-heeled local backers, including Jim and Ted Ukrop, the MeadWestvaco Foundation and Doug Pick, chief executive of FeedMore.

Pick says his stay at a London hostel as a college student changed his life, and he wants Richmond to offer that experience to others.

"I didn't become a citizen of the world until I stayed in a hostel that night," Pick says. "It's an amazing opportunity this city has to be a bridge to the rest of the world."

Hostelling International USA, which owns hostels in 55 cities, has been renovating the former Otis Elevator building at 7 N. Second St. in the Monroe Ward Historic District.

The $2.8 million project should be ready with 50 beds in time for the arrival of the UCI Road World Championships next September.

Champe Burnley, president of the Virginia Bicycling Federation, says the hostel will be well-positioned to accommodate European bike travelers. It's located right outside U.S. Bicycle Route 1, which runs across the East Coast. "Cyclists from around the world will literally stop right here," he says.

Hostelling International required $500,000 to be raised locally for the project, of which $190,000 is needed. Organizers say they expect to have the gap closed by a Dec. 1 deadline.

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