Motel preparing to host again

Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 29, 2007

FRANKLIN—The motel on Carrsville Highway near the Franklin Municipal Airport, which had been vacant since February, is getting remodeled and may open within a matter of weeks.

What is now being called Country Host Inn was gutted, rebuilt with new “everything” and has been approved by the Isle of Wight Department of Zoning and Planning. A county health inspection is the last hurdle to be cleared, according to the manager, Subahoo Shah.

The drywall in each of the motel’s 90 rooms has been “ripped out”” and replaced, as has the carpeting, furniture, bathroom fixtures, phones and televisions, Shah said. New paint covers interior and exterior walls.

“Everything is new in the rooms,” Shah said. The old furnishings were thrown away.

The major renovation was necessitated by years of neglect. The previous tenant, Tony Savage, was the last to operate what had been called the Tidewater Inn. In its final days before shuttering, Savage offered housing for the transient, those finding themselves homeless after fires or financial difficulties, parolees looking for a fresh start or simply those down on their luck. That use, Savage was told, violated county zoning regulations.

At the same time, however, the county’s building inspectors cited a long list of violations of the building code that would need to be repaired if Savage bought the property, as he said he might consider.

The building was beset with shortcomings, including water damage, unsafe electrical connections and plumbing problems.

Instead, Savage closed the doors.

The owners of the property, CCC Real Estate Holding Company based in New York City, transferred the 3.03 acres and the building to BLR Hospitality Corp. of Suffolk, which began work in August.

The company, Shah said, owns about a dozen motels in Virginia, but would not elaborate.

At the Franklin location, renovations are being conducted in phases.

Phase 1 includes opening the motel’s lobby and 50 rooms that will be used as nightly rentals. Those rooms are located in the front portion of the building.

Phase 2 involves converting the remaining 40 rooms into efficiency rooms for longer stays. Those rooms occupy the rear portion of the property.

“That kind of room has a lot of demand in this area,” Shah said.

The indoor pool will be brought up to code, as will the restaurant, which will be leased. There have been “a few inquiries” regarding leasing the restaurant, Shah said, but no contract has been signed.

The second phase could take a few months.

“We’re working on it,” Shah said, ”but it takes time.”

Completing the first phase required repairs to items that the county’s director of inspections called “a result of poor maintenance of the property” in a letter to the Suffolk office.

They included repairs to interior walls, smoke detectors, electrical systems, heating and air conditioning, plumbing, interior and exterior walls.

And to the windows, some of which have been damaged by bullet holes.

“That’s part of the game,” Shah said of the holes. “We have to deal with it.”

Shah said, who commutes daily from Portsmouth.

Nightly rates at the Country Host Inn will range from about $55 to $70, Shah said. Weekly rates will be set later.

The property itself has fallen on financial hard times. According to information available at the Virginia Mass Appraisal Network, a Web site that provides information about transactions, the property sold for $1.35 million in September 1999. By July 2204, however, it sold for half of that. It is assessed at $652,300, according to VamaNet.

Shah estimated that renovations cost between $3,000 and $4,000 per room. Efficiencies cold run as high as $7,000 per room.

The motel may provide a few jobs in housekeeping, maintenance and lobby help. Shah said some 20 jobs may be created if the occupancy rate remains at a steady pace.

For now, though, the emphasis is on remodeling and opening a motel.

“If you run a neat, clean property,” Shah said, “people will know about it.”