Groundbreaking ceremony celebrates the construction of a world-class hotel
A special groundbreaking ceremony was held on June 15, 2021, to officially introduce The Highlander, a boutique-style hotel to be located on Tyler Avenue across from Radford University’s main campus.
President Brian O. Hemphill, Ph.D., joined members of the Radford University Board of Visitors, the Radford University Foundation Board of Directors and other project partners to formally break ground at the hotel's site at the intersection of Tyler Avenue and Calhoun Street.
“Today’s event represents partnership in the truest form,” said Board of Visitors Rector Robert A. Archer. “We would not be here today to celebrate this important project without the leadership and the support of so many. This project will provide significant opportunities for the local community and the broader region. The availability and quality of this hotel will attract business and industry, as well as tourism.”
Rector Archer recognized the leadership of President Hemphill and his team, stating, “The vision for this project started with President Hemphill. His team, in working with the Foundation and other partners, found a way to make that vision a reality. And, they did so during a global health pandemic, which represented a time when very few projects moved forward.”
As this represented the final public event during President Hemphill’s tenure, Rector Archer directly addressed the President before concluding his remarks. The Rector proudly shared, “President Hemphill, as you and your family prepare for a new journey, please know that you will always have a home at Radford University and a room at The Highlander!”
The Highlander, estimated at 125 rooms, will be six stories tall and 88,000 square feet. It will provide amenities not available at current area hotels, such as a coffee shop, ballrooms, modern guest rooms and a stunning rooftop restaurant and bar that will overlook campus with a backdrop of the Blue Ridge Mountains. A highlight of the structure will be a 4,000-square-foot conference space that will accommodate 250-300 people, allowing the University to potentially host large-scale events, such as business expos and conferences, it could not accommodate in the past.
Construction of the hotel began in the summer of 2021. It is expected to be completed in late 2022.
John Cox, chief executive officer of the Foundation, officiated the ceremony, explaining the project’s ideation and commending all those who made it a reality.
“This day has been in the making for what seems like a very long time, especially in the midst of a pandemic. My entire team is here, and they all played a role in the hotel,” Cox said. “In 2019, the vision for a hotel became a reoccurring topic of discussion among the members of the Board of the Radford University Foundation and the Radford University Real Estate Management LLC, which manages the Foundation’s real estate assets, and University leadership. And, in October of 2019, President Hemphill – for the first time – publicly discussed those plans as part of his annual State of the University Address.”
Addressing ceremony attendees on behalf of the Radford University Foundation Board of Directors, Chair Christopher Huther ’88, J.D., called the project “the best of what the Foundation and the University can do for students, their families, alumni, the Radford community and the Commonwealth.”
“It will create opportunities, improve the local economy and provide a beautiful place to gather and celebrate the University and the region,” he continued.
Also offering remarks were project partners Tony Peterman, executive vice president of Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL); Ramiro Albarran, managing director of Preston Hollow Capital; and Stephen B. Ballard, president and chief executive officer of S.B. Ballard Construction Company.
The three men reminisced about the early stages of the hotel planning process: the in-person brainstorming sessions that soon turned to Zoom conference calls in the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak in early 2020. They also talked about the tremendous amount of support behind the project and its future.
Ballard referred to these people as “the champions.”
“On a project like this, you have to have three good champions, and I believe President Hemphill, John Cox and Ramiro did a fantastic job pushing this project forward,” Ballard said. “This is going to be an amazing first-class facility.”
President Hemphill concluded the ceremony by recognizing all the individuals who helped bring this exciting project to life.
“I would say what an incredible day for each of us, an incredible day for Radford University, and an incredible day for this community, the City of Radford and the New River and Roanoke valleys,” he said. “This was a project that a lot of hard work, energy and amount of time went into with so many Zoom calls and meetings. Today’s event really represents a bold step forward for this University and this community.”