Looking Up 

Downtown Richmond to get a new restaurant and a rooftop lounge.

click to enlarge Plans for a new hotel at 700 E. Main St. include a rooftop lounge and a ground-floor restaurant, Belle and James.

Scott Elmquist

Plans for a new hotel at 700 E. Main St. include a rooftop lounge and a ground-floor restaurant, Belle and James.

Richmond’s restaurant scene is expanding -- vertically.

Plans are in the works to open a rooftop cocktail lounge and restaurant atop an 18-story building downtown as part of a hotel conversion under way.

Kunal Shah, a Washington restaurateur, is collaborating with local hotel operator Shamin Hotels on the project. While plans are still fluid, Shah says, he wants it to be a place where people can “enjoy cocktails, enjoy light fare, and then, late-night, enjoy the music.”

Shamin Hotels bought the office tower at 700 E. Main St. last year and plans to open it as a 144-room Hampton Inn & Suites in 2015. The project also will include 100 extended-stay rooms under the brand Homewood Suites.

In addition to plans for the rooftop, construction has started on a full-service, ground-floor restaurant called Belle and James. Shah says it will feature a 50-foot onyx bar and “good American food.”

The layout of the rooftop is still up in the air, says Shamin’s chief executive, Neil Amin, who is financing the hotel conversion in part with federal historic tax credits. He submitted plans to the state’s Department of Historic Resources showing the expansion of an existing penthouse on the roof and the construction of a 6-foot-tall glass guardrail along the edge of the building.

In their correspondence with Amin, state regulators cautioned that expanding the penthouse and installing a glass guardrail that could be visible from the street might jeopardize the tax credits.

In response, Amin says he’s mocked up the railings using PVC so state officials can make a final ruling before he begins construction on that aspect of the project.

Shah says he doesn’t have a firm date on when the rooftop space will open, but expects it will roughly coincide with the hotel’s opening next year. “It’s going to happen,” he says. “We just don’t know the scope as of yet as far as how large we can make it.”

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