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Jun. 28—white sulphur springs — From a solemn moment at a creekside monument memorializing local people who perished in the 2016 flood to an energetic hike through a construction site that is steadily transforming an old school building into a boutique hotel, U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., and her entourage were treated to the definitive Spa City tour Friday.
Other stops on the tour were the West Virginia Great Barrel Company's Harts Run factory; a block of Main Street businesses, many of which are owned and/or managed by women; and the new White Sulphur Springs Pool and Wellness Center.
Those accompanying Capito on the tour included White Sulphur Mayor Bruce Bowling and City Manager Lloyd Haynes, entrepreneur and philanthropist Tom Crabtree and Charles Hammerman, whose Disability Opportunity Fund (DOF) has purchased several Main Street buildings and the former White Sulphur High School, which is being repurposed as a fully-accessible boutique hotel.
"Today's visits throughout Greenbrier County made clear that this community is as resilient as ever," Capito said in a statement released by her office. "Whether it was the revitalized environment along Main Street, the people who make our small businesses thrive or the services provided to our neighbors with disabilities, it was impactful to see firsthand how far the community has come since 2016. I appreciate Mayor Bowling and all those who are working each day to continue making White Sulphur Springs a great place to live and raise a family."
Bowling was delighted to have so much positive attention focused on his town.
"I just can't get this grin off my face," he exclaimed during the walk from the new Main Street shops to the future site of the Schoolhouse Hotel.
"People had ideas for these projects before Covid hit, and they followed through on their ideas even with the pandemic changing our lives so much," Bowling said.
He spoke about the investments made by non-native West Virginians in this little town.
"They were a big part of White Sulphur's resurrection," the mayor said, noting that housing values have skyrocketed in town. A couple of homes recently were snatched up the same day they were listed, he said, remarking on how unusual that was.
Capito also spoke about Hammerman's investment in downtown White Sulphur Springs.
She said she first met Hammerman, who hails from New York, in February of 2020 and found herself somewhat skeptical of the man's vision for what could happen in White Sulphur.
But Hammerman proceeded to put piece after piece of his vision into place and erased any doubts harbored by Capito and others.
"This is incredibly exciting," the senator said Friday, standing in the middle of what was once a high school gymnasium and is in the process of becoming The Schoolhouse Hotel's ballroom.
"This project is beyond my wildest dreams," Capito added.
Once complete, The Schoolhouse Hotel will house 28 guest rooms, two suites, a restaurant/bar, a rooftop bar overlooking downtown White Sulphur, a meeting and event space that can host events such as conferences and weddings, a business center and an exercise room.
Developers expect to open the hotel sometime in the first quarter of 2022.
DOF brings a unique perspective to this project. A Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) whose goal is to help communities spark economic growth, DOF's objective is to introduce the disability market to the CDFI community, according to a FAQ sheet on the hotel's website (theschoolhousehotelwv.com).
"With DOF's mission to focus on the disability market, The Schoolhouse Hotel will be a completely accessible hotel where everyone's needs will be met without ever needing special accommodations," the FAQ sheet indicates.
What's happening in White Sulphur, as it continues to reinvent itself following the flood, serves as a "great example of how you pick yourself up," Capito said, praising the private investments that continue to bolster the community.
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