PETERSBURG, Va. (WRIC) — The City of Petersburg is suing the owner of the old Ramada Inn on Washington Street, a site that’s been an eyesore in the city for years.
The deteriorating abandoned hotel has been plaguing the city not only as an eyesore, but also a location for criminal activity. After several notices of violation and requests for progress, city officials are moving full steam ahead, pushing to demolish the structure.
City Council members say they’ve received complaints about the hotel every day for the last two years. Through the years residents like Marcus Squires have expressed their frustration to 8News about the building.
“Is Petersburg ever going to get itself together?” Squires questioned in 2019. “To have it still sitting there and not done. It’s really disturbing.”
Residents aren’t alone in their questioning. The same inquiries have been raised by Petersburg leaders who see the building as a stain on the city’s image.
“Everybody that comes to the Commonwealth sees this eyesore,” Sam Parham, Petersburg Mayor told 8News in April.
The dilapidated Ramada Inn can be spotted from Interstate-95 and isn’t hard to miss as you enter the city. The building was constructed back in 1973. Since then it’s changed ownership several times before closing its doors in 2012.
In 2016, Chris Harrison–developer at The C.A. Harrison Companies LLC and former NFL player– expressed interest in purchasing the hotel and the agreement was final in 2018. Harrison bought the hotel for $750,000 and promised to revamp the rundown hotel, restoring it for the community and tourism industry.
But, a few years later and city officials are claiming no progress has been made on the dated building.
8News visited the hotel on Monday and witnessed shattered windows boarded up, beams dangling from the structure, and portions riddled with graffiti.
On June 3, City Attorney Anthony Williams filed a 267 page complaint in Circuit Court, forcing the owner, Harris, to address the ongoing concerns or the city will clear a path to demolish the building.
One clause states the hotel is a “threat to public health, safety, and welfare and an immediate hazard to life, limb and property.
The suit claims Harrison has ignored numerous citations, violated city safety codes and even claims fraudulent behavior over money allotted by the city to clear out lead and asbestos from the building.
In the past, Harrison has pointed to rising construction costs and ongoing litigation as reasons for the lack of progress. He also found a program in 2019 that allows cities to borrow money for energy efficient projects, which city council said they would consider. Harrison also tried to secure a tourism loan to finance the construction.
The city has declared the site a public nuisance and is pushing to tear it down. If the city wins its case, they want the Department of Environmental Quality to hire Meridian Waste Acquisitions to demolish it.
8News did have an interview with Harrison, however an emergency caused him to cancel. We also asked for a statement, but never heard back.
According to online court records, a hearing scheduled for December in the Circuit Court.