Liberty University now owns another Lynchburg hotel, the 130-room Quality Inn off Odd Fellows Road. The school purchased the property for about $4.5 million this week following a year of negotiations and a $1.1 million price decrease.
The purchase marks LU’s second multi-million purchase in the city over the last two weeks. In October Liberty purchased the Sears site in River Ridge Mall for $6.9 million.
The Quality Inn is located beside the Lynchburg Inn, which LU also owns. It will be used as student housing while four campus dorms are demolished and replaced with an eight-story, 1,200 bed tower.
Students will live there for three semesters.
The 50-80 Virginia University of Lynchburg students that call the Quality Inn home will continue to live there until the end of this semester while their dorm is completed. VUL will now pay LU for use of the rooms.
Liberty’s residential tower will open in the fall of 2014, with additional dorms to follow as needed.
Long term, LU wants to add 6,000 new beds to campus.
“We needed the hotel. That allows students to stay together,” said LU Chancellor Jerry Falwell Jr. Friday as he explained the college’s desire to avoid separating students that have already formed friendships.
“The quality Inn was the perfect choice because it’s right next to our Annex which has about 500 students,” he said. Students will be able to use the previously established transportation and dining services.
Despite the loss of a local business, Lynchburg City Council member Turner Perrow was pleased with the purchase. “They’re a great partner for the city,” Perrow said of Liberty adding that he supports the schools efforts to attract people to the region.
After LU is finished with it, Falwell said the site could revert back to being a hotel, be sold, become managed student housing or an apartment complex. No decision has been made.
The area is ideally situated for future development, Perrow said.
The Wingate on Candlers Mountain Road is also owned by Liberty University. Officials opted not to turn that into student housing because, said Falwell, so many guests need a place to stay when they visit Liberty.
The recent purchase brings the school one step closer to its ultimate goal.
“A walking campus is much better for everyone, it’s what our goal is and it’s what our plan is,” said Falwell.
Campus officials are frustrated with the traffic, congestion and parking problems caused by students travelling to and from apartment complexes three and four miles away to campus. LU recently spent more then $1 million to construct additional parking on campus.
“We simply can’t handle any more traffic coming in everyday,” said Falwell. He anticipates parking lots to be “maxed-out” by next year but does not want to keep spending money on parking lots.
The school has 12,500 residential students this year and is expected to continue to grow. About 40 percent of its student population lives off-campus.
The comprehensive plan calls for major investments in on-campus housing — six, eight story towers near the Vines Center — and efforts to surround the college with apartment complexes for students.
“We want Liberty to be more like the other universities with housing options close by so students can walk and ride their bikes,” he said.
LU has already sold about 40 acres of land in Campbell County to a developer who, earlier this year, won approval from the Campbell County Board of Supervisors to build Liberty Ridge Student Housing. The proposed development calls for 32 apartment buildings with 14 apartments in each. They will be marketed primarily, but not exclusively, to LU students.
Falwell does not want developers in other areas of the city to build based on LU’s growth projections..
“The message to local developers is ‘Stop building apartments that are not right next to Liberty,’” said Falwell. “The roads won’t handle the traffic and the lots won’t handle the parking. We just want all the growth right here.”
Get local news delivered to your inbox!
Subscribe to our Daily Headlines newsletter.