At a work session Wednesday, members of Williamsburg’s Economic Development Authority expressed concerns over William and Mary Real Estate Foundation’s recent purchase of the Days Inn on Richmond Road.
The meeting was originally convened to develop the EDA’s future goals and initiatives, but doubled as a platform for EDA members to discuss William and Mary’s acquisition of the motel.
The primary concern voiced by members was the lack of information provided to the EDA on the acquisition. The city has also been buying budget hotels, including the Super 8 and Lord Paget Motel.
“Things are happening with major pieces of property,” said Board Chair Adam Steely. “We should have been a part of that conversation.”
According to a recent EDA memo, the members of the board intend to focus their efforts on building up the “largest economic opportunity in the heart of the City” through sponsoring downtown events, expanding the Arts District and revitalizing the Midtown area.
“We need to focus on the shopping centers,” EDA board member Tonya Boone, who teaches at William and Mary’s Mason School of Business, remarked in the memo. “Especially in light of the Days Inn sale. Can’t say I’m happy about that.”
Another cause for concern was the loss of tax revenue for the city, which Bill Carr, a member of the EDA’s Board of Directors, said will be the result of the purchase.
“We need to have smart growth and taxable income for the city,” said Carr. “We need to also recognize that the college is growing and we need to accommodate more housing.”
Carr suggested that student housing on the second floor of Tribe Square could be a potential solution.
The $3.05-million sale is contingent on the City of Williamsburg rezoning the hotel to allow the real estate foundation to house students. The W&M Real Estate Foundation will now begin the process of requesting the city to rezone the property.
The Days Inn is adjacent to the college’s campus and has 102 guestrooms that will house either upperclassmen or graduate students.
“The Days Inn property is highly desirable for the university and real estate foundation because of its location and potential use as housing for upperclassmen or graduate students,” Sam Jones, senior vice president for finance and administration at William & Mary, said in a press release announcing the purchase. “We also think this purchase will support an important goal for the city by bringing more students into university-operated housing.”
Steely stated that it would be in the best interest of both parties for the EDA and William and Mary to be able to partner on similar projects in the future.
“One of our priorities is to explore the right avenues for the city and EDA to work in cooperation with the college, and in addition, for the [William and Mary Real Estate] Foundation to have a far more robust level of communication than we have explored in the past.”