BLACKSBURG — The pool will be drained. No, there won’t be turndown service. And don’t look for a mint on your pillow.
This isn’t a hotel anymore. It’s a residence hall like the dozens of others on campus.
Virginia Tech is transforming the Holiday Inn Express on Plantation Road into what will — for this school year at least — be known as HIE Student Housing. The hotel-turned-dorm will function exactly as any other residence hall, Tech officials stressed during a tour for media members Thursday.
“To call it the Holiday Inn Express would be inaccurate,” Tech spokesman Mark Owczarski said. “It is now HIE Student Housing.”
The signs out front and much of the Holiday Inn Express branding were covered with white tarps Thursday.
The university made national headlines when it was revealed about 195 students would live at the Holiday Inn Express and 325 would call the Inn at Virginia Tech home during the upcoming school year. The move was necessitated by an over-enrollment of at least 1,000 students who will arrive in Blacksburg next week.
There will be some hotel-like amenities in the building. Each room will come with a television and some hotel furniture. A continental breakfast is available for students during the week. There will be some limited, weekly maid service that’s also found in some dormitories on campus.
During the Thursday tour, reporters observed Tech employees putting cloth wardrobes in rooms and making other efforts to get student housing ready for next week. Move-in on campus and at the Holiday Inn Express begins next Wednesday.
“A lot of people are working really, really hard to make this happen,” Owczarski said.
The HIE Student Housing building features extra long twin beds typical in dorm rooms across campus and the country. There will be a residential assistant on each of the hotel’s four floors and a full-time housing staffer who lives in the building.
On Thursday, mattresses were piled high in the hotel lobby, getting prepped to be placed in rooms.
The school will also use some conference rooms as space for students to gather, and the weight room will be changed to a study room. The pool will be drained and locked.
Tech officials did not offer tours of the Inn at Virginia Tech, which won’t go through a one-year re-brand, because it “is currently still operating as a hotel and not available for media viewing,” according to a media advisory from the school.
Owczarski did say that a similar process to prep the three floors for student housing there is ongoing in a similar fashion to the efforts at the building formerly known as the Holiday Inn Express.
One of the primary differences between the two hotels-turned-dorms is that much of the Inn at Virginia Tech will be three-to-a-room instead of two.
Tech has used a number of other strategies to handle the extra students. The school said 49 students took its unique offer to delay enrollment for cash incentives. Those incentives included a scholarship to take a gap year, paying for community college and including the option to attend the school only in the spring or fall and take summer courses.
The university has also announced about 100 returning students have opted out of housing contracts, and 84 freshmen have elected to live off campus.
Virginia Tech will pay Blacksburg Holiday Inn Express owner Blacksburg Hospitality Group LLC — its registered agent is Dennis Dowdy — a total of $3.7 million to use that hotel, on Plantation Road, for 10 months.
Newport Hospitality Group, which manages the hotel, transferred many of its employees to two of its other properties, the Hyatt Place and Residence Inn located near the intersection of Prices Fork Road and University City Boulevard, said Andrew Simasek, senior vice president for the company.
Two employees found jobs elsewhere, but ultimately nobody who worked for the company lost a job because of the deal with Tech, Simasek said.
“It was a positive move for everybody,” he said.
Three of the four floors of rooms at the Inn at Virginia Tech will cost a little more than $5 million to be transferred from Tech’s Student Affairs to the Inn at Virginia Tech, which is owned by the university. So, in the case of the Inn, Tech will transfer money internally.
Each student living at the Holiday Inn will pay $3,755 per semester. At the Inn at Virginia Tech, the room rate will be $3,775. There, most rooms will be triple occupancy and each student living in a triple will receive a 20% room credit for each semester the room has three or more residents.
The costs are comparable to some on-campus dorms. On the campus, residence halls range in price, with suite styles being more expensive and some older traditional style rooms costing less.
The payments from students will cover a portion of the costs to Tech. The university will have to make up the difference in a manner to be determined, Owczarski said.