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City May Get a Miller & Rhoads Bargain

“We’ll purchase it from the RRHA,” says Michael T. Laing, managing officer of Beller’s ECI Development Services, which is developing the new 216-room hotel. “I’m not sure how the RRHA gets it.”

GE is attempting to get the property’s value reduced to zero before giving it to the city, officials say. Last week, a lawyer for GE asked the Board of Review of Real Estate Assessments to reduce the $3 million assessment on the property to nothing.

Linwood “Woody” Aron, chairman of the review board, says GE argued that the cost of removing asbestos from the property would offset its assessed value, and therefore should be reduced. The board will probably decide whether to reduce the assessment on the former department store — home to the Legendary Santa until Miller & Rhoads closed in 1989 — in the next week.

“We don’t know what the value is until we know something about the cost” of removing asbestos, Aron says. “My guess is it’s not going to be a great deal of money.”

Officials with GE Financial and the housing authority couldn’t be reached for comment last week. Laing wouldn’t comment on the financial particulars of the deal. Laing, who is in charge of the $66 million in infrastructure improvements on East Broad Street, says the new hotel won’t be complete until 2006 or 2007.

John W. Woodward, Richmond’s director of economic development, says having the housing authority hold the note on the building allows GE to dispose of the property, and gives Beller’s company time to secure federal and state historic tax credits. – Scott Bass

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