Williamsburg Inn plans new amenities

Contact Reporterwwright@vagazette.com
Inn was a five star facility until '98, Colonial Williamsburg wants to return there

The Williamsburg Inn, an establishment which once housed Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip, could be on its way to some needed repairs.

Vice President of Operation Robert Underwood and Director of Architecture and Engineering Neil Ellwein presented proposed changes to the city Architectural Review Board Tuesday in what the board calls a "conceptual review."

"We often encourage (the conceptual review process) for projects that have flexibility or ones that are more significant," board chairman Rob Lane said. He added that the bulk of the groups that reach the board don't do a conceptual review before applying because their ideas are straightforward.

Underwood said the goal is for the Inn to regain its five-star rating, and he tied the conceptual review to the sheer weight that the Inn holds as it relates to Colonial Williamsburg.

In 1998, the Mobil Travel Guide — now called the Forbes Travel Guide — downgraded the Inn from a five-star rating to a four-star. The changes Colonial Williamsburg now wants are aimed at regaining that five-star mark.

"This is very important to us, and to Colonial Williamsburg," Underwood said. "There were a few important elements in the design that we wanted to make sure they saw."

Those elements included a reflecting pool in the front, a social terrace in the back, and some changes to the Queen's Terrace, also located in the back of the Inn. The additions would complement the existing spa, tennis courts and restaurant located at the Francis Street Inn.

Though he noted that the presentation did not have some of the details that an application would, board member Joe Hertzler said what the board did see raised no flags.

"They thought things out very well," he said. "We'll get some more details. Overall, the materials were good."

"They were pleased, and we were pleased," Underwood said.

The next step is a formal application to the board, which should come next month.

"Probably not at the next one," Underwood said in reference to the Sept. 27 meeting. "It should be at one of the October ones."

For now, staff have an idea about what the board is expecting. That's the other side of the conceptual review process — testing the waters keeps groups from wasting resources.

"The conceptual process allows them to do things without spending a lot of money," Lane said. "That way don't have to spend money to apply, just to have to go back and change things."

Carolyn Murphy, Director of Planning and Codes Compliance for the city of Williamsburg, noted that since the changes are considered relatively minor, they don't need to go past the board. In other circumstances, building changes go from the board to the Planning Commission and up to City Council, even.

Any of the proposed changes for the Inn could help the move it toward its goal as one of the top hotels in the world.

Then it could serve many purposes, including as a venue for lovers in Virginia.

"We would like to enhance weddings, events," Underwood said. "We want to make it a family environment, and a place for destination weddings."

Wright can be reached by phone at 757-345-2343.

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