Photo above: Cornerstone Hospitality CEO Kimberly Christner speaks at the groundbreaking ceremony July 26.
The on-again, off-again Sessions Hotel project in Bristol, Va., is on again. Ground was broken July 26 for the 70-room boutique hotel on State Street originally that had originally been announced in Dec. 2013. The hotel, once slated to open in spring 2015, is now scheduled to open its doors next summer.
Funding for the project, originally announced to be in the $20 million range, proved to be more difficult to arrange than Cornerstone Hospitality President and CEO Kimberly Christner would have liked, she said at the groundbreaking. “I’m sure some of you never thought that this day would come, and while we’ve never wavered in our belief in the project, there were times when we didn’t think it was going to happen either. So I can assure you we are grateful to be here.”
Even with funding from Kentucky-based Community First Bank and several Bristol-area private investors including Lois and Larry Clarke and Mitch Walters, the project still needed help across the finish line.
A representative from Senator Mark Warner’s office confirmed Christner applied for the senator’s assistance to cut through red tape. “Our office was contacted in 2017 by Kimberly Christner, CEO of Cornerstone Hospitality, to inquire on her behalf on the status of her SBA loan application—which was the last piece of the financing puzzle to move forward with the Session Hotel project,” said Nelly Decker, Warner’s press secretary. “After Sen. Warner’s office inquired on the status of the SBA loan on Ms. Christner’s behalf, the SBA provided a timely decision and ultimately approved the SBA loan.”
“Anyone who does this kind of work, the bringing back of historic buildings in downtown markets, knows it is a very difficult process,” Christner said. “It is time consuming. You take two steps forward and six steps back. You take one step forward and three steps back. Before you know it, you’re square dancing with someone you didn’t intend to square dance with. It is fraught with twists and turns and ups and downs and is an exhausting process. But when you’re bringing something this fabulous back to life, you just press through.”
The planned hotel will incorporate the Owen Equipment Building on State Street with the former Jobbers Candy factory and Service Mills buildings with an open air performance venue associated with a restaurant between them. The venue, Christner said, will be a place for musicians to perform, “on their way to Nashville.” The Sessions Hotel takes its name from the Bristol Sessions of 1927, generally regarded as the birth of country music.