Crystal Spring boutique hotel proposal raises concerns for Roanoke residents

ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) — On Tuesday, members of the south Roanoke community met to voice concerns and hear solutions from the team behind a proposed boutique hotel in the Crystal Spring area.

The hotel would sit on the stretch of Crystal Spring Avenue SW where a Famous Anthony’s restaurant — which closed down last year shortly after a hepatitis A exposure — and a few other businesses used to be on Crystal Spring Avenue SW, according to a special exception application filed with the Board of Zoning Appeals last month by a Roanoke couple with a long career in international design and business.

While many south Roanoke residents say they’re excited about the hotel proposal, they’re also worried about the consequences the project may have in the Village Center.

“I can sum it up I think in five or six bullet points,” Sheldon Bower — president, owner, and principal engineer of Parker Design Group — said to the crowd of more than 60 residents on Tuesday, July 26. “One is architecture , one is building height, another is traffic, the other is parking…and then the use of the alley.”

Bowers spoke at the South Roanoke United Methodist Church, while one of the property owners, Rudy van Thiel, called in from France to join the conversation.

“How are you going to incentivize people to use these 40 parking spots that are two blocks away?” a woman questioned.

Parking was the main concern of the night, but van Thiel promised valet parking, overflow lots, and off-site parking for employees to combat the issue.

Still, a number of community members were not convinced.

“In Crystal Spring, where a lot of houses don’t have a driveway, don’t have parking, and they rely on the street, what’s going to prevent people from parking on 24th, or the 2400 block of Crystal Spring?” one man asked.

“I first would like you to understand that the Famous Anthony’s has always been there, 120 seats, delivery, beer, food, all this stuff, just as much as anybody else,” said van Thiel.

Some residents, though, were warming up to the idea.

“Free valet parking would probably make me at this place, if for no other reason, because it would be the easiest parking I’ve ever had down there,” another man said.

Since Famous Anthony’s Crystal Spring closed, locals and Van Thiel both knew something would eventually go in its empty space.

“Things that could be done within this zoning may be worse than what this is,” one resident suggested.

“We can do a tattoo shop, we’re allowed to put a rental car place there without asking you, we can put apartments on top,” explained Van Thiel. “…That’s not a threat, it’s not something, but it’s a reality that we have to face here together.”

The developers plan for the hotel to stand around 45 feet tall with a high-end restaurant and 600 square-foot rooms. Van Thiel says it will have European charm, adding that it will be a needed addition for which Roanoke is ready.

According to the project team, the hotel is still in the concept and design stage, but the Board of Zoning Appeals is expected to make a decision about the development in August.

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