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Examining Hotel Roanoke's Economic Impact 20 Years After its Reopening

Doubletree Hilton

Norfolk and Western (now Norfolk Southern) opened the Hotel Roanoke on Christmas Day 1882. After undergoing a number of renovations and additions, the Star City mainstay was closed in 1989 - but reopened soon after. The City of Roanoke and Virginia Tech marked the 20th anniversary of the hotel’s reopening by releasing a report that examines the its impact on the local economy. 

In 1989, when the Norfolk Southern Corporation donated the Hotel Roanoke to Virginia Tech, not everyone thought the deal made sense. In fact, it made a lot of dollars.

According to a report from the Roanoke Valley-Alleghany Regional Commission, the deal added more than $616 million to the region’s economy between the hotel’s April 1995 reopening and the end of 2014. The impact in 2014 alone was $40 million, according to the report. Roanoke Mayor David Bowers says the hotel’s value can’t be measured on a spreadsheet.

“Well, it is a huge economic impact, but it is the heart of Roanoke. Roanoke wouldn’t be Roanoke without the Hotel Roanoke, St. Andrew’s church, the Taubman museum, the Berglund Center and the mountain with the star. Those are the iconic views Roanokers love about our city.”

The Hotel Roanoke and Conference Center is the result of complicated public private partnership involving Roanoke, Virginia Tech, the Virginia Tech Foundation and Doubletree Hotels. The funds for the renovation completed two decades ago came from the city, the foundation, Doubletree, several banks and the federal government. But that left the project $ 7 million short. Carilion added $ 1 million. The last $6 million came from donations offered by the public.

“We went out to the public and said do you want to save the Hotel Roanoke. It was a resounding yes. People were willing to make an investment - it was not an investment. It was a donation. It was a gift. They didn’t get anything for what they did, giving their money to this foundation. They did get something. They got to save the Hotel Roanoke.”

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