PETERSBURG – The city government has officially filed documents with the Petersburg Circuit Court that could pave the way for a resolution to the multi-year saga surrounding the former Ramada Inn on W. Washington Street.
The building which has been vacant for nearly a decade is looked down upon by many townspeople who see it as an unwelcoming symbol when exiting the freeway.
The 267-page complaint filed by the Petersburg city attorney alleges that the owner of the building, Chris Harrison, broke his continued promises to downsize the property and ignored a multitude of code violations for conditions dilapidation that make the building a threat to public safety.
Petersburg asks the circuit court for a declaratory judgment and an injunction to force Harrison to reduce the dangerous conditions. If he does not do so within a reasonable time, Petersburg asks the court for permission to enter the property for the purpose of demolition or demolition. This cost would be recouped by a lien on the property.
After:City Closes Sale of Former Ramada Inn, Launches Exit 52 of Gateway Project
Senator Joe Morrissey had strong words about the building. Much of his campaign messages aligned with the hotel’s demolition.
“The only price that interests me is that this building be demolished, that it be razed,” Morrissey said at the June 4 press conference. “Right now, the gateway to St. Petersburg is a dilapidated, disfigured and vandalized building. You might as well have a lighted cross on exit 52 of the motorway. It’s horrible.
A 57-page report compiled by Moseley Architects in January detailed 140 different code violations on the site, totaling $ 14,000 in fines. This report also showed numerous examples of human entry into the property and several examples of unsafe conditions.
The city has issued at least six different sets of criminal and civil penalties against Harrison for the conditions of the building. Previous rounds have been addressed, but most have gone unanswered.
The hotel itself is owned by a limited liability company, Virginia Hotel Development Group LLC. Morrissey said city officials had no intention of letting this company shield Harrison from liability.
“An LLC is not and cannot be established to avoid liability for other duties and responsibilities,” Morrissey said. “So from the first meeting with the town attorney, we talked about piercing that corporate veil and holding Harrison accountable himself, including footing the bill on this building.”
City attorney Anthony Williams said the new procedure would not be a quick process but he would push for the case to be speeded up as the property was declared a threat to public safety.
“It’s a marathon, it’s not a sprint,” said Williams. “We’re interested in getting it done right and doing it completely and finally so that we don’t have to deal with it in the future.” ”
The city lawsuit will discuss “chapter and verse” of the steps the city has taken to have Harrison remove the property, the alternatives presented to him, and a detailed list of promises that have been made and have not been kept to date. ‘nowadays.
The lawsuit will also include clarification of previous legal disputes between Harrison and other contractors.
Richmond Bizsense reported in 2019 that two of the Harrison, CA Harrison Cos. and Virginia Hotel Development Group were defending old hotel-related cases filed by contracting firms. An engineering consulting firm alleged that it was owed the bulk of a $ 450,000 contract that included asbestos remediation.
Williams said those cases had never been fully tried and the city’s lawsuit would try to get to the bottom of those previous claims. Unrepaired asbestos would mean increased costs to ultimately demolish or repair the old hotel.
Until a solution is found, the old Ramada Inn continues to sit with shattered windows and a facade gathering more and more graffiti every week.
Many lament the building’s image on the city, while Mayor Sam Parham said it was starting to have an effect on local economic development efforts.
“When you go to a bank to finance projects in this area, you are automatically denied the kind of financing that should be available for a project right off I-95 where you have close to 300,000 cars going. travel non-stop. This definitely delays development.
Parham says he would eventually like to see the building salvaged and turned into a hotel. Moseley Architects’ report detailed the extensive damage, but showed that the main structure is still strong.
“In the Petersburg, Colonial Heights area, we have some of the highest occupancy rates during COVID-19. So there is a huge demand in our region for more hotel rooms and accommodation. We saw in the report that the building can be salvaged, but it needs to be done now. ”
Virginia generally gives parties 21 days to respond to a written complaint. Petersburg will ask the court for permission to reduce the property on his own if Harrison does not respond. Parham estimated that preliminary work could begin within the year.
Harrison did not respond to a request for comment at the time of posting.