Conferences held in Richmond have typically taken place downtown, but the December introduction of the Hilton Richmond Hotel & Spa ( 191 Town Center West Blvd., 364-3600 or hiltonrichmond.com ) may change that. The hotel and conference center next to Short Pump Town Center has 254 guest rooms and 22,000 square feet of meeting space; the massive, 10,500-square-foot ballroom will accommodate 1,100 people, theater-style.
The Hilton property's Italian Renaissance ambience features rounded archways, hand-blown glass light fixtures and calming color schemes with shades of blue, chocolate, taupe and champagne.
It joins the slightly older (by three months) Aloft Richmond West ( 3939 Duckling Drive, 433-1888 ), a boutique-style hotel in West Broad Village with mid-century-inspired décor, a list of innovative mixed drinks available at the bar, and an area where you can shoot a game of pool or play a board game.
The opening of the two hotels is a welcome sight for Short Pump developers as commercial sectors nationwide have seen — at best — a slowdown in growth.
There have been a few store openings at West Broad Village such as Home Goods ( 364-8757 or homegoods.com ) and REI sporting goods ( 360-1201 or rei.com ), scheduled to open Nov. 20, but the momentum slowed because of the economy. "When [the project] started, it was build it and they will come," says B. Hunt Gunter, vice president of The Wilton Companies, leasing agent for West Broad Village. "Then the recession happened."
Some of the tenants that had been secured for the center such as Books-A-Million, Old Navy and Dress Barn pulled out. Gunter is now focusing on securing local and regional retailers as well as national retailers that are expanding. "We have an anchor position open, and we are working with three anchor tenants currently," he says. "Retailers are starting to look again."
West Broad Village is divided into two different types of centers — a shopping center to the east and a work-and-play area to the west with apartments, offices, restaurants and the new Aloft hotel.
"We have been very successful with the apartment leasing," Gunter says. One of the two buildings in The Flats at West Broad Village is fully leased. The second building is 60 percent leased. A third apartment building will open by the first of the year. Homes built by both Eagle Construction and Ryan Homes are seeing steady sales, as well.
In the last few months, several retailers and restaurants as well as South University ( 727-6800 or southuniversity.edu/richmond ) have opened in the center. Keagan's, an Irish pub, is scheduled to open under Aloft."We don't have a date for that," Gunter says. "We still have build-out to do."
Wine Loft ( 368-1768 or thewineloftrichmond.com ), a wine bar and restaurant serving 250 different wines, is set to open in West Broad Village in mid-December, with a grand opening about a month later. Part of a national chain, Wine Loft's Richmond location is owned by Jeff Ottaviano, a former commercial pilot who's switching from one sort of flights to the other. "Wine is a very social drink," he notes, and the restaurant's décor will reflect that ethos with comfortable couches and chairs placed for conversational ease. He also plans jazz performances and tastings on a regular basis.
West Broad Village isn't the only hotspot west of town, with businesses at the Hilton opening soon, including Shula's America's Steak House, specializing in prime aged cuts of beef, and Aura Spa, a full-service salon and spa open to the general public as well as hotel guests. "We will be the only spa in Richmond that will have two couples' treatment rooms," says Lori Darling, vice president of sales and marketing for Chester-based Shamin Hotels.
An inside market at the hotel will serve as a coffeehouse in the mornings, a quick pick-up spot for salads and sandwiches during the day and a wine and dessert bar at night. "People will be able to get their dessert and wine and go to our outdoor patio where they can sit in front of the fire pit," Darling says. "People have been asking for this type of hotel in the Far West End, and we listened."
Although the economy has slowed some openings, it didn't deter the owners of Fido Park Avenue Dog Boutique ( 4027 Lauderdale Drive, 360-8011 or fidoparkavenue.com ), a new entry at the Shoppes at Westgate. Chris and Don Vondriska retired and moved here from St. Louis, Mo., to be closer to their daughter and her family.
Although the products are at all price points, the store's luxury items are what stands out: Cashmere dog clothing, Swarovski crystal necklaces and non-alcoholic "dog wine," to be poured over dry food, are among the inventory. You can expect to see Ginger, the couple's Cavalier King Charles spaniel, and Max, their Scottish terrier puppy, at the store, although Don notes that Max needs a little more training to be at the store full-time. Customers' dogs are absolutely welcome.
Building on a more old-fashioned economic model, West End Farmers Market ( weather hotline: 364-8213; market manager: 564-9989; westendfarmersmarket.com ) opened in April. The market, located on a one-acre parcel of land at Ridgefield and Gayton roads, carries everything from artwork and meats to fresh produce and baked goods. Artisans at the market make a variety of items, including quilts, jewelry and hand-carved bowls.
Wednesday hours have ended for the season, but the market's Saturday morning hours (8 a.m. to noon) will continue through Dec. 12.
Riley, who is "crazy" about fresh fruits and vegetables, grew up on a produce farm in Vineland, N.J., an area known for its agriculture. "I am passionate about farming and also about supporting the local community," she says.
The idea for the market sprang up out of frustration. "There were very few farms left in Henrico," she says. "Most of the markets around are 30 minutes away."
One of Riley's biggest challenges was finding the right piece of land with the correct (retail) zoning. "It took eight months to find it and make arrangements with the owner," she says. The space gives her the capacity for 40 vendors. Typically, she says, there are 35 vendors on Saturdays and approximately 15 on Wednesdays.
Riley intentionally designed the market to be a producers-only market. "The produce has to be grown in Virginia within a 100-mile radius," she explains.
Approximately 3,500 people came to the market on opening day. Items such as baked goods, eggs and apples sell out quickly, Riley says. "We have had an unbelievably successful season. We have a huge, faithful customer base. I couldn't be more pleased."
Farther west, Goochland County Parks and Recreation is enjoying success with its Skate 522 Park ( find SKATE 522 Goochland on Facebook ). A year ago, the county converted several tennis courts at the old Goochland High School site into a skate park. "We had a demand for the skateboard park, and we had other tennis courts at the new high school as well as the J. Sargeant Reynolds campus," says Craig Anderson, parks and recreation program coordinator.
The skate park was "the place to be" this summer, he adds. "It works well."