University of Virginia President Jim Ryan and several University and University of Virginia Foundation officials ceremonially broke ground Thursday for a $130.5 million hotel and conference center to be built in UVA’s Emmet-Ivy entrance corridor.
Once completed, both the hotel and conference center and the School of Data Science will anchor the nearly 15-acre parcel that will serve as a central point to University Grounds, as well as an entrance corridor for visitors to the University.
Jennifer “J.J.” Wagner Davis, the University’s executive vice president and chief operating officer, hosted the ceremony, introducing the speakers to the 150 attendees.
Colette Sheehy, the senior vice president for operations and state government relations, highlighted the keys points of the hotel and conference center and cited the partners who had made the project possible, including several University departments, the UVA Foundation and the contractors.
“We’ve partnered with a number of design firms, contractors and consultants to ensure the hotel is well-designed and built,” Sheehy said, “and that it creates a welcoming and inclusive place where the UVA community, local residents and visitors can gather and interact.”
Ryan also spoke about the impact the hotel and conference center would have on the University and the local community. He noted the School of Data Science building being erected behind him, and also the proposed building for the Karsh Institute of Democracy and a performing arts center that will begin taking shape over the next several years. He said the parcel will link Central Grounds and the North Grounds.
“This will be a crossroads for the University – and the University’s front door,” he said. “The hotel and conference center will play an important role as a place where people can gather and stay - prospective students and their parents; data scientists, faculty from the Law School can meet there with members of the Medical School faculty. This will be a bridge that makes the community stronger, bring worlds together in ways that are predictable and unpredictable.”
Rector Whitt Clement spoke about the important impact the Emmet-Ivy entrance corridor would have on the success and future of the University.
“This has been a long time in the making,” he said. “It is a happy occasion when we can look forward optimistically. This dynamic, vibrant corridor will help bridge a gap between North Grounds and the athletic precinct and Central Grounds.”
Tim Rose, CEO of the University of Virginia Foundation, thanked many members of his team, past and present, and Pyramid Global Hospitality, which will manage the hotel and conference center’s operations.
“The commonwealth has a long history of hospitality, and its flagship institution of higher education has embarked on a great and good plan which strives to make UVA synonymous with service,” Rose said. “We appreciate the opportunity to provide a piece of this service to UVA’s students, faculty and staff, our neighbors and visitors from outside our community.”
After the remarks, several University and UVA Foundation officials used ceremonial silver shovels to symbolically turn the earth to mark the start of construction. Those who dug were Alice Raucher, architect for the University; Rose; Davis; Ryan; Clement; and Don Sundgren, associate vice president and chief facilities officer.
In 2021, the Board of Visitors approved the designs for the state-of-the-art, 223,000-square-foot hotel and conference center sited along the southwest corner of the existing Emmet/Ivy parking garage, defining the northern edge of the Emmet-Ivy Corridor landscape. The hotel construction is scheduled to be complete by spring 2025 with an opening planned for later in the summer.
The hotel and conference center will be open to the public and will facilitate University events and gatherings. The 214-room hotel also will offer approximately 25,000 square feet of conference center space and provide the University convenient, centrally located accommodations for visiting scholars and lecturers, prospective faculty members and students, returning alumni, career recruiters and other visitors.
A 10,000-square-foot ballroom will be largest meeting space in Charlottesville. A junior ballroom, numerous meeting rooms and smaller spaces and rooftop venues should increase statewide conference opportunities and provide local jobs. The hotel will feature a full-service restaurant, café, a grab-and-go eatery and a welcome center among its amenities, along with four floors of guest rooms.
The structure will be certified by Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, developed by the U.S. Green Building Council, and will conform with the University’s 2030 sustainability goals. The roof has been designed to accept solar voltaic panels in the future and the building’s stormwater runoff will be directed into a retention pond near the parking garage. A stream in front of the hotel and plantings will encourage biodiversity, and shade trees will provide cooling in the summer.
The hotel’s exterior will feature red brick coordinated with the design of the School of Data Science, located to the southeast of the hotel. White precast panels will highlight the meeting and terrace spaces on the third floor, outdoor dining on the second floor along the south facing façade and the ballroom on the west façade. An event suite on the top floor will include an outdoor terrace space, affording views toward the Rotunda.
The facility will be managed by the UVA Foundation and operated by Benchmark, which plans to develop relationships with local high schools, community colleges and trade schools to prepare people for work in the hospitality industry.
A design team led by architects Deborah Berke Partners of New York and Hanbury Architects of Virginia, in collaboration with representatives of the Office of the Architect for the University, the UVA Foundation and UVA Facilities Management, prepared the design of the hotel and conference center.