Petersburg leaders address plan to rid city of former Ramada Inn Hotel

Updated: Apr. 28, 2021 at 6:41 PM EDT
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PETERSBURG, Va. (WWBT) - Petersburg city leaders announcing a game plan to deal with the old, dilapidated Ramada Inn Hotel that stands crumbling near I-95.

According to the city, the hotel - constructed in 1973 - was once one of the City’s premier hotel properties. In 2010, it was transformed into Fort Lee Regency before it closed in 2013.

“This property was sold to C.A. Harrison Companies, LLC for $750,000 and officially closed April 2, 2018,” said Mayor Sam Parham. “It has since continued to sit dormant.”

The owner promised to bring new apartments and businesses into the space that sits off E. Washington Street overlooking I-95.

“Here it is five years later and still no motion…At this point and time, we’ve issued criminal and civil summons for those violations on the hotel,” Parham said in January.

“Just seeing it every day... it’s definitely an eyesore to everybody,” said Michael Myrick, who works in the area.

Numerous violation notices have gone unanswered by property owner Christopher Harrison, according to the city.

On Jan. 19, the Petersburg Department of Neighborhood Services, engineering consultants, and the city attorney conducted an inspection of the property to identify any potentially dangerous conditions.

The old hotel is so rundown, nearby residents have reported pieces of the building falling off.

“I know they were hanging off the building and some were laying on the grass over there,” Myrick said.

“This is a public safety issue,” Parham said. “We have elevator shafts in there that are wide open, graffiti everywhere and there are signs that people are accessing this.”

On April 6, the Petersburg City Council adopted an ordinance to abate the “blighted and dangerous building.”

On Wednesday, Petersburg city leaders announced a plan to finally rid the city of the dilapidated Ramada Inn, which has “plagued the city of Petersburg for far too long.”

“The city plans to proceed with court action in an effort to have the owner abate and demolish,” Parham said.

Parham and other city leaders had hoped the building would be repaired and brought up to code.

“Preferably as a hotel is what we wanted to see there,” he added.

The city is hoping the owner of the property will demolish the building, but if he does not, Parham said the city is ready to proceed with demolition at the city’s expense with the cost becoming a lien upon the subject of the property.

“We’re not going to sit and let anything happen, waiting around for Mr. Harrison,” Parham said.

Messages to Harrison were not immediately returned.

However, beyond legal action, the city is also looking at an opportunity to partner with state and private businesses.

The proposal is for a three-way partnership between the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), the city and Meridian Waste Acquisitions, LLC. The city is hoping the DEQ will allow Meridian to demolish the old Ramada hotel for free in lieu of or an offset of civil penalties the waste contractor faces right now for the issues at the Tri-Cities Landfill.

“They would like to be able to have an opportunity to do this for the citizens as a show of thank you, and we want to be a good partner with the city of Petersburg,” Parham said.

According to the city, there are two lawsuits relating to the matter.

The suit in Richmond Circuit Court, CFS Group Disposal and Recycling Services, LLC v. Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, is pending.

“This case is an administrative appeal of the DEQ Order issued following a formal administrative hearing held by DEQ,” a press release said. “The Order directs closure and other actions to be taken at the Tri-City Regional Landfill based on alleged violations of the solid waste management permit and associated regulations at the Tri-City Regional Landfill.”

The city said settlement discussions are ongoing between CFS and the Commonwealth to resolve both cases. CFS has since agreed to close the landfill.

Meanwhile, a letter was sent to the DEQ director on April 23 requesting support for the partnership. A spokeswoman for the agency said Wednesday, the letter was received and was transferred to the Piedmont Regional Office which will review the request.

There is no set timeline on when things could move forward, but city leaders hope to have an answer sooner rather than later, depending on court proceedings.

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