If Bolton is the successful buyer, the three-quarter-acre site will likely be converted into a kind of miniluxury hotel, according to the city's Department of Economic Development. The hotel may include a swimming pool overlooking one of the city's best skyline views.
The pool could be the kind of incentive to win over Church Hill residents and others who have long been concerned about the future use of the property that topped one of Richmond's most historic promontories.
Six months ago, the Historic Richmond Foundation and the James River Chapter of the American Institute of Architects held a public debate about the architectural significance of the 15,000-square-foot building and what could be done with it and its surrounding land. Those who turned out determined the building is of value to the community and demolition should be aggressively discouraged.
The unique yet idle edifice was built by acclaimed architect Philip Johnson in 1968. For decades, local radio stations WRVA, Q-94 and XL-102 called it home. These stations are now owned by Clear Channel Communications with headquarters on Basie Road.
Soon the alabaster building could be a resting spot for tourists.
Developer Bolton "has contacted us," says John Woodward, the city's economic-development director. So far his office has provided only advice, referring him to 7th District Councilwoman Delores McQuinn for support. Woodward has also pushed the attractiveness of the city's tax abatement and enterprise-zone programs.
Jennie Knapp, with the Association for the Conservation of Old Richmond Neighborhoods (A.C.O.R.N.), says Bolton has discussed his project with some Church Hill residents who seem to be amenable to the plan. A swimming pool is key, she says, especially one that has a neighborhood membership component.
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