Hotel John Marshall Back On 

Owner submits building plans for condo, retail development.

On-again, off-again plans to convert the long-derelict Hotel John Marshall are back on. Plans for the project were submitted to the city on Tuesday, reviving the frustrating and seemingly endless restoration saga of the 90-year-old landmark.

The plans drawn up by Commonwealth Architects include an unspecified number of condo or apartment units and retail space. Also included is a plan to restore the hotel's grand ballroom, according to city sources. City officials declined to make the building plans immediately available to Style.

It's unclear if the current proposal is in line with last year's announced plans to refit the building with 232 luxury apartments and 37,000 square feet of retail space. Calls to Commonwealth Architects were not returned by press time, but according to the Richmond assessor's office Web site, the building is currently assessed at $5.5 million and is already zoned for mixed-use condo or apartment development.

The 443-room hotel at Fifth and Franklin streets has a long and storied history as a downtown landmark, but closed its doors in May 1988 and has largely remained shuttered since.

Williamsburg investor Gilbert L. Granger bought the 15-story John Marshall Hotel in September 1998 at auction, with plans to reopen it as a hotel. An attempt to reopen a restaurant and catering business in the building's renovated kitchen proved only briefly successful.

For most of the past decade, the building has been largely left to the elements, with tattered curtains now visible through broken windows billowing in the wind.

In 2003, the property briefly was surrounded in scandal after it was revealed that the city assessor's office had decreased the value of the building from more than $500,000 to $1,000. It was reassessed later that year for $1.4 million. The property's current $5.5 million assessment has not changed since 2007, though the assessor's records show that it was reassessed both of the past two years.

In December of 2008, two limestone panels fell from the building's faAade and crashed to the ground below, raising concerns about the building's overall structural integrity.

The city assessor's office still list's Granger and his company, Goodness Gracious Inc., as owners, though developer John C. Camper, owner of Hampton Roads-based Virginia Atlantic Development Inc., has led recent efforts to revitalize the building, including a failed 2004 bid to convert the hotel in upscale apartments.

More recently, Richmond-based Dominion Realty Partners Inc. joined renovation efforts.


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