Confirmed plans for a boutique hotel just off Monument Avenue

The six-story The Shenandoah in the Fan building is currently vacant. ASH NYC, which bought the property for $ 3.5 million, is considering converting it into a boutique hotel. (BizSense File)

The Fan’s first boutique hotel is officially under construction.

The Shenandoah Building at 501 N. Allen Ave. is in the process of being converted into a hotel of approximately 70 rooms. The six-story building sits just north of the circle on Monument Avenue where the statue of Lee once stood.

The official plans were confirmed last week by Ari Heckman, CEO of ASH NYC, who bought the property in the fall for $ 3.5 million but had not disclosed his intentions for the site at the time. .

ASH has three boutique hotels in Detroit, New Orleans and Providence and has two ongoing in Philadelphia and Baltimore. Heckman said he sees an opening in Richmond, despite nearby competitors like the Quirk Hotel, the Graduate Richmond and the Jefferson Hotel.

Ari heckman

“I like the Jefferson. I love an old grand dame hotel. It’s not necessarily in my aesthetic, but it serves that role in the community, ”Heckman said.

“For me, there was no obvious place (in Richmond) that matched the model we’re looking to create. I was also very drawn to the fact that Fan is this wonderfully historic neighborhood which I would say is one of the top 10 historic mixed-use neighborhoods I know of in the United States ”

At 35,000 square feet, The Shenandoah previously served as the headquarters of local advertising company The Martin Agency in the 1980s and, more recently, was a retirement home.

The parcel is currently zoned residential, so ASH is seeking a special use permit to allow a hotel. Mark Kronenthal of Roth Jackson represents ASH in the rights allocation process.

ASH is budgeting around $ 15 million for the renovation of The Shenandoah and plans to begin work in the second half of 2022. Plans include a cocktail bar and lobby cafe, which Heckman said he has. done in other ASH hotels.

Commonwealth Architects is the architect of the project. Heckman said they did not yet have a general contractor or name selected for the hotel.

“Since the building is as it is, the renovation process is fairly straightforward. I hope to open by the end of 2023, ”Heckman said.

Founded by Heckman and Jonathan Minkoff in New York in 2008, ASH is a real estate development, interior design and hotel management company.

Heckman acknowledged that the fact that one company performs these three seemingly disparate tasks is atypical.

“Most (of companies) tend to focus on their discipline alone. For us it’s always about control and my personal desire to always be rooted in creativity as my pole star, ”he said.

“I decided that to creatively implement what I wanted to do, there was no better way than to control the real estate and the project. This is how I got into real estate development, almost as a means to an end.

Heckman said it was in 2013, when they were developing their first hotel in Rhode Island, The Dean, that they decided to go into management.

The lobby of The Dean, ASH NYC in Providence, Rhode Island. (Courtesy of ASH NYC)

“We imagined that we were just going to outsource it to a third party operator or manager. We were deep, deep, deep, deep in the development process and we almost finished the project, and we couldn’t find an operator we were super excited for, ”Heckman said.

“There was something very sad and hollow about giving it to a third party who wasn’t actually part of creating the product, and we figured the disconnect would be very noticeable to the guest. “

Heckman equates their approach as a developer, designer and operator with that of an innkeeper.

“I feel like so many other things in American life, the hospitality industry has become very corporatized. There are a lot of franchises that pass themselves off as boutiques but are actually a kit of painted parts. by numbers, ”Heckman said.

“Because we are the designers of our hotels, each hotel has a very specific point of view. Every finish and piece of furniture is something we design and manufacture, or is antique and vintage furniture that we collect around the world.

Heckman said he sees a lot of similarities between Richmond and his hometown of Providence, each being historic capitals with academic anchors and populations of similar size. He said other hotels in ASH have been successful in attracting locals as well as outsiders, and that he hopes the same for the Richmond spot.

“The ultimate measure of our success is that people in the neighborhood make (the hotel) their own. We want to be the natural meeting point and living room of the neighborhood, ”said Heckman. “It’s as or more important than creating a foundation for people from out of town to visit the hotel.”