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The geological marvel and its surrounding 1,600 acres are going on the market for $32.5 million.
Friday, April 13, 2007
The owners of Natural Bridge in Rockbridge County are putting the state's best-known geological wonder on the market — 215-foot-high limestone arch and all.
The $32.5 million asking price includes the historic landmark's 1,600-acre property with hotel, gift shop, wax museum, caverns, hiking area and rock formation. The tourist attraction draws about 200,000 visitors a year, and the sale is not a result of financial difficulty, said David Kleppinger, executive director of the Rockbridge Partnership, a regional economic development organization.
Rather, three of the eight owners are more than 80 years old, Kleppinger said. "My understanding is they're at a point in their life that it's just time to sell and put the property in someone else's hands," Kleppinger said. He noted that its primary owner is Angelo Puglisi of Washington, D.C.
The primeval real estate — the bridge's age has been estimated at about 500 million years — is being brokered by two companies, Summit Commercial Real Estate in Washington and Sperry Van Ness Real Estate in Lynchburg.
Ed Koepenick, the managing broker for Sperry Van Ness, said that the real estate firm plans to go public with its listing in two weeks. In the meantime, it is creating what he described as an extensive — and expensive — brochure and Web site that will detail the property's offering through photographs, aerial pictures and maps.
Also included in those materials will be the business' financial details, which Koepenick said he didn't have on Thursday. The marketing of the property, he said, is expected to span the globe.
The owners first approached Sperry Van Ness about helping them sell the property about a month ago, he said. They had owned the landmark for about 18 years.
Koepenick said he has several interested parties, the closest from Charlottesville, but would not disclose any names. The real estate firm is also talking to Marriott and other hotel chains, he said.
Along with acres of undeveloped land, the property has an abandoned golf course, which Koepenick noted would be ideal for a retirement community or new homes.
The 158-room hotel, he said, could use some sprucing up with modern upgrades and a possible expansion. It was build in the 1960s, he said.
Catherine Miller, managing director of Natural Bridge Hotel, declined to comment on the sale, other than to say the listing was positive. "I think it's great for everyone involved," she said.
When asked whether Natural Bridge will stay open, Kleppinger said it's more than likely. "The only change that we would anticipate occurring there someday is someone will want to do some development of the vacant property," he said.
In 1774, the stone marvel was purchased by Thomas Jefferson from King George III of England for the sum of 20 shillings. That would be about $2.40 for the rock formation and 157 acres of surrounding land — before current amenities and two and a half centuries of inflation, of course.
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