Meg Hibbert Contributing writer
A long-awaited hotel and restaurant next to the Salem Civic Center moved closer to reality this week after Salem City Council approved an erosion and sediment control plan for construction of Staybridge Suites and Bruno’s restaurant.
In September 2016, councilmembers agreed to sell 6.75 acres of city-owned land to Spartan Development LLC for $100 an acre, for development of the 105-room hotel and an upscale restaurant.
Bruno’s restaurant will be run by Silva and Tiffany Bruno and have 150 seats inside and another 100 outdoors, Vice Mayor Bill Jones said. The Brunos have The Landing restaurant at Smith Mountain Lake, as well as a food truck.
At the Feb. 13 council meeting, council approved a $137,907 bond for grading and other construction to begin April 1 and will be completed within 12-24 months.
“We’re very excited about the hotel and restaurant,” said Jones after the meeting. “People have asked for this for years. A lot of good things are coming together at one time,” he added.
Councilmember Jim Chisom said, “We think it will be a perfect fit with the Salem Civic Center. It’s about time. The economy is important and I think it shows everyone is willing to step out and invest.”
Salem City Manager Kevin Boggess said the city is hoping to have a groundbreaking on the whole site in April, with developers “shooting to be open in a year.”
Spartan Development representatives Dan Friesland and Alan Criss have been quoted as saying they expect to invest $10 million in the project and expect the three-story hotel and restaurant to employ more than 60 people.
Development on the corner of Texas Street and Boulevard will necessitate some changes in usage of the grassy area now used for parking and for recreational vehicles during the Salem Fair and Mountain Cluster dog shows, for instance. Developers will also pay to move the gravel driveway in that area.
For years, out-of-town visitors attending events at the Salem Civic Center and other facilities at the Taliaferro Complex have asked about hotel rooms closer to the events, city leaders say. During such events as national softball tournaments, the Stagg Bowl football championship in December and other tournaments and championships, hotel rooms in the 10 hotels in Salem are sold out as well as many in surrounding areas.
At the public hearing on the hotel project in September, neighbors expressed concerns that losing parking on civic center grounds might increase parking traffic in their neighborhoods, particularly during the Salem Fair in July.
The city uses parking lots owned by GE and other businesses during overflow event times and provides free shuttle bus service from GE parking. The new hotel and restaurant will be within walking distance from Salem Football Stadium, LewisGale Field where the Salem Red Sox play, the Salem Civic Center and nearby Kiwanis Field where youth baseball games are held.
In other matters before Salem City Council, Mayor Randy Foley announced that the regular Feb. 27 council meeting has been cancelled, because there is nothing pressing for the agenda “and we have plenty of other meetings to attend.” The next regular meeting will be March 13.