The owner of Charlottesville's unfinished Landmark Hotel broke his silence Thursday. On WINA radio, John Dewberry said he is "flabbergasted" by the city's ongoing process of declaring the property unsafe, even though it's been sitting virtually derelict for years.
The hotel on the downtown mall was supposed to be finished in July 2009. It is not and since then has become a monument to failed plans and, the city says, a blight on the community around it.
Dewberry bought the property in June 2012 but has been hard to pin down on details ever since. Thursday he emerged on Rob Schilling's radio show. Dewberry says he has plans to put more than $30 million into the previous Landmark Hotel, which he will call the Dewberry. He expects to begin construction on the project sometime in April.
But recently the city has taken steps to declare the building unsafe and repair it. Charlottesville's Director of Neighborhood Development Jim Tolbert says people have been getting into the skeletal building and climbing it.
Dewberry said, "I will get my sorry behind up there quickly as I can to do this project but what is going on now will not make me do it any quicker."
Two days ago, in a report to the Charlottesville City Planning Commission, the Department of Neighborhood Planning Services recommended the commission find the property unsafe and make its own recommendations of repair to the City Council, causing Dewberry to react to the intentions behind the recommendation.
"If you are going to try to call the property a blighted property and go through this whole rigmarole, are you going to take that property from me?" Dewberry said.
Dewberry says he's turned down offers from the Four Seasons to build his own premier hotel because he made a dying promise to his father.
"I have decided to name the brand Dewberry in honor of my father and we are going to launch the first one in Charleston and when we get that started we will be immediately up there working on drawings," he said.
The Charleston hotel is slated to begin construction April 1, and Dewberry says he committed to pouring $30 million to $40 million into the Landmark Hotel project to rebuild.
"I can fight the city of Charleston, Iraq, Charlottesville, and everyone else to do what I told my daddy I am going to do. I am going to do it," he said.
All of this comes less than one week before a public hearing when the planning commission decides what recommendations to make to the city. Then City Council will make a decision about whether to make repairs. That decision is expected on January 21.
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