By FRANCES WOMBLE
Although students moved into Eagle Landing in August, Eagle Village is far from complete.
According to Chief Executive Officer of UMW Foundation and President of Eagle Property Holdings Jeff Rountree, the UMW Foundation is exploring the possibility of constructing a hotel in Eagle Village.
“We have done a market survey,” he said, “And we believe a hotel would do very well at that location, primarily due to the fact that Mary Washington Hospital has a significant need for such a facility.”
Additionally, a road would be constructed connecting Eagle Village with Mary Washington Hospital.
Although not involved with the planning process or funding, Mary Washington Hospital is looking forward to the possibility of having a hotel so close to the facility.
“Mary Washington Hospital treats many patients with complex illnesses, diseases and injuries,” Kathleen Allenbaugh, company spokesperson for Mary Washington Healthcare and UMW alumna said. “Having a hotel in such close proximity to the hospital will be a great benefit to families of these patients and to patients of all kinds.”
Allenbaugh explained that Mary Washington Hospital’s Level II trauma center is the only such center between Richmond and Washington D.C. Because of this, patients are sometimes airlifted to the hospital.
“We also have one of largest and busiest emergency department footprints in the state,” she said.
All of these characteristics add to the need for a hotel close to the hospital.
Rountree also explained that patrons from UMW would benefit from a hotel. These patrons could include parents of current students, prospective students and traveling sports teams.
Junior Sharon Van Neil had mixed feelings about the possibility of a new hotel in Eagle Village.
I think the hotel is a great idea for families of individuals staying in the hospital,” she said. “It’s convenient for families of students at the university, although it can make students less independent. College is a time for students to get out on their own.”
According to Van Neil, being without parents is integral to college life and learning to be independent. If there were to be a hotel so close to campus, her parents would be more inclined to make extended stays in Fredericksburg.
“Also, I think prospective students would benefit more from spending a weekend with a current situation in their dorm than in a hotel in order to get what true campus life is like,” Van Neil said.
The UMW Foundation’s survey said a national brand hotel with four or five stories and about 100 rooms would be the best choice for Eagle Village, according to Rountree. These possible brands include a Hilton Garden Inn, Hampton Inn, Marriott Courtyard or Residence Inn, and Hyatt Place.
“These are professional-class hotel properties, but at an affordable price which is important to us,” Rountree said. “We are just exploring the idea and have not selected a brand.”
Senior Calvin Barnard feels that a hotel could provide economic and employment benefits to UMW.
“I believe building a commercial hotel in Eagle Village is a great idea providing it generates revenue for the university,” he said. “It should maintain the same architecture as the majority of UMW buildings. If possible, it would be great to incorporate UMW students in employment, particularly business majors.”
However, financing options have to be considered, and this process takes time.
“Nothing will happen unless the UMW Foundation gets a finance package that we are comfortable with and that will be very difficult in the current economic environment,” Rountree said. “After the banking collapse, very few banks are lending money right now for hotel projects. But, we have started to see some movement in the industry, and we are optimistic that a deal can be struck in the next few years.”
If financing is successful, the hotel itself is still at least two or three years from happening, according to Rountree.