Construction begins on Marriott and First Freedom Center

Published: May. 15, 2013 at 5:04 PM EDT|Updated: May. 15, 2013 at 9:35 PM EDT
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After years of drawing plans and getting permits, construction is finally starting on a new Marriott hotel and religious freedom center. The project is being built at the corner of 14th and Cary Streets in Shockoe Slip. It's a $30 million endeavor expected to create hundreds of jobs.

Most recently, the site was a parking lot. Before that, a gas station. But in 1786, in a wooden building that's no longer there, the Virginia General Assembly passed the Statute for Religious Freedom. Now the First Freedom Center will be built there.

"This is the corner of 14th and Cary Streets and the First Freedom Center will be constructed centered at that corner," First Freedom Center President and former U.S. Ambassador at Large Randolph Bell showed us on a drawing of the building.

Surrounding it will be two Marriott hotels, a Courtyard Marriott and a Residence Inn. In 2008, Apple REIT, a real estate investment trust, began collecting community input on the project. Permits took two years.

Said Bell, "The process for municipal approval for building a structure in what is an old and historic district, Shockoe Slip, has been complex."

The First Freedom Center expects visitors from around the world to come to see its exhibits, which will demonstrate "what it means to have freedom of conscious, to have freedom of pluralism among your believers and non-believers," explained Bell.

Apple REIT says it's a $30 million investment. White Lodging of Indiana will both build and run the hotels. They say it will create 162 construction jobs, 76 hotel jobs, and $930,000 a year in tax revenue for Richmond. They expect to fill the rooms with visitors to VCU Medical Center, businesses, theaters, and the First Freedom Center.

"That large of a complex we hope will be beneficial to the businesses in Shockoe Slip and Shockoe Bottom, and to tourism in Richmond generally," said Bell.

White Lodging hopes to complete the hotel by July of 2014 and will begin hiring staff about 6 months prior to the opening. You can learn more at the White Lodgings website.