So Bo gets $600,000 in tobacco money for hotel redevelopment

Plans for redevelopment of the former John Randolph Hotel in South Boston took another step forward Wednesday when the Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Committee gave the thumbs up to $600,000 in grant funding to the town of South Boston.

Plans for redevelopment of the former John Randolph Hotel in South Boston took another step forward Wednesday when the Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Committee gave the thumbs up to $600,000 in grant funding to the town of South Boston.

Tobacco commission members met in various committee meetings in Galax Tuesday before ending the day with a reception. On Wednesday, the full tobacco commission executive board convened to take final action on awarding the grant to the town.

Sen. Bill Stanley made the motion to support the $600,000 grant that was unanimously approved.

“The unanimous vote was really encouraging,” said South Boston Town Manager Tom Raab who attended the two days of tobacco commission meetings. “We’re very pleased. We can’t say enough about the leadership our mayor (Ed Owens) has on the commission as well as local businessman John Cannon.”

This spring, South Boston received $475,000 in industrial revitalization fund awards for the John Randolph Hotel project, and the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development (VDHCD) awarded the South Boston IDA $100,000 in grant funding in 2012 to help purchase the property.

“We should have enough money now to make a difference including the $2 million in historic tax credits. Hopefully within two months, we’ll lock in and hopefully be able to announce who the contractor will be for this project. It’s (gathering financial resources) is coming to an end I hope,” Raab added.

Raab said the tobacco commission will take the $600,000 from the $873,839 balance available for Halifax County.

The town also is seeking another $100,000 from the tobacco region opportunity fund (TROF) program that could be awarded near the end of the project.

The purpose of the TROF program is to provide performance-based monetary grants and loans to localities in Virginia’s tobacco producing region to assist in the creation of new jobs and investments, whether through new business attraction or existing business expansion.

Raab said the town will know more about how many jobs will be created as the project progresses.

In addition, the town also is seeking a $50,000 no interest TROF loan to round out the $750,00 in tobacco commission money that can be used to redevelop the boutique hotel.

“This is wonderful news,” and “it’s one more step toward redevelopment of the John Randolph Hotel,” added Raab.

Raab said the town originally applied for $1 million in grant funding from the tobacco commission, adding, “That would be the next piece of the puzzle” as town officials plan to develop the building into a boutique hotel with 27 guest rooms, restaurant and roof top bar.

The town of South Boston has been looking to renovate the building housing the former John Randolph Hotel into a boutique hotel since 2012.

Town of South Boston officials think the building housing the former John Randolph Hotel is worth renovating, not only for its historical value but also for its use in making downtown a destination.

The town envisions the former hotel building as a boutique hotel as contributing to the preservation of the building’s historic features; removal of blight in downtown South Boston; and encouraging neighboring owners of vacant buildings to follow suit and consider renovation options.

Rationale for the project also included eliminating downtown South Boston’s one and only “white elephant;” increasing the tax value of neighboring properties; creating jobs and encouraging private investment in the downtown area; and promoting pedestrian traffic and attracting visitors to downtown South Boston.

South Boston’s award of $600,000 was among the 21 requests totaling more than $10.5 million the tobacco commission gave final approval to Wednesday supporting projects across Southern and Southwest Virginia.

The total funds to be disbursed break down as follows: $1,995,850 for megasite development, $1,942,750 for regional economic development, $1,614,746 for economic development in Southwest Virginia, $3,370,979 for research and development, and $1,029,933 for health care access. The individual requests approved ranged in size from $26,550 to $2,000,000.

Tobacco Commission Chairman, Delegate Terry Kilgore said, “These projects will further our goal of developing a diverse economy in the tobacco region. I am pleased that the commission chose to approve these grants and look forward to following the progress of each project.”

Tobacco Commission Executive Director Evan Feinman added, “It’s always great to be able to support projects that will grow the economy in Southern and Southwest Virginia and that’s what the Commission has done here. From megasites that will help us attract new businesses, to ensuring people have access to quality health care, to attracting regionally transformational projects, I am proud of the projects the commission chose to help make possible over the last two days.”

The Tobacco Commission is committed to developing a diverse economy in Southern and Southwest Virginia. The funding requests approved over the two-day meeting will continue to move the region toward that goal.

For more information on specific projects, contact Jordan Butler at