Shuttered hotel owned by former NFL player Chris Harrison is “public nuisance,” city says
The city of Petersburg filed a lawsuit Friday against the company owned by former NFL player and developer Chris Harrison, who promised in 2015 to replace the city’s shuttered and dilapidated Ramada Inn with a brand-new hotel, 100 apartment units and retail space. Six years later, redevelopment has not taken place.
In Friday’s filing, Petersburg City Attorney Anthony C. Williams seeks a declaratory judgment from the Petersburg Circuit Court that would force Chris Harrison’s company to either “abate the unsafe conditions” on the property at 380 E. Washington St., or allow the city to demolish the building or take other steps to make the property safer. Petersburg City Council adopted an ordinance in April that declared the property blighted and a “public nuisance,” and directed the city attorney and manager to compel the owner to “abate, raze or remove the public nuisance,” according to a news release Friday from the city attorney’s office.
If the city receives a judgment in its favor, Williams will seek to hire local waste contractor Meridian Waste Acquisitions LLC to demolish the hotel — allowing the company to offset civil penalties it incurred from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality for its operation of the Tri-Cities Landfill. The state has filed suit against Meridian’s parent company, CFS Group Disposal and Recycling Services LLC, but is in settlement negotiations that could include the demolition and waste disposal of the Ramada Inn at no cost to the city.
“We remain hopeful that the proposal to DEQ and Meridian will come to fruition, but regardless, the city will continue to press forward and do all it can to ensure that this property is rendered in a safe condition for our citizens,” Petersburg Mayor Sam Parham said in a statement Friday.
C.A. Harrison Cos. took ownership of the hotel and adjacent land in March 2018, pledging that it would be part of a large redevelopment of the city’s entrance off Interstate 95, including retail and apartments and a hospitality training program in connection with Virginia State University.
Thee project was troubled from the start, however, taking more than two years to finalize the $750,000 sale following Harrison’s 10% deposit in August 2015. At the city’s December 2015 announcement of the project’s details, Harrison said he planned to have the new hotel built and in business by June 2017.
But by October 2019, the city issued Harrison’s company a violation notice for “loose materials that could endanger life or damage property,” followed by other violations and six criminal misdemeanor summonses issued last year against Harrison.
In an interview with The Progress-Index in January 2020, Harrison said that he has had trouble financing the $20 million project, particularly after losing a $5 million tourism grant from the city of Petersburg, which closed its tourism department in 2016. Harrison did not immediately respond to an email from Virginia Business seeking comment on Friday.
Meanwhile, the University of Virginia alumnus and former NFL offensive guard and tackle started work last year redeveloping Richmond’s Model Tobacco building, in which his company is investing $59 million to build 203 high-end apartments. That project is set to be completed by 2022.