Hart School of Hospitality, Sport and Recreation Management

Proposed Conference Center Moving Forward


Rendering of Proposed JMU Hotel and Conference Center

The idea of a new Hotel & Conference Center on campus at JMU is not a new one. For many years it has been in the plan by the university to add these facilities, primarily taking into consideration its rapid growth and also to tackle the need of expanding Conference Services facilities. JMU administration, in particular Mr. Charles W. King, Jr. (James Madison University Vice President for Administration and Finance) with the JMU Foundation’s Board of Trustees, have supported the project. The idea came up many years ago and it has been under public discussion ever since. However, in June the city of Harrisonburg and JMU were in disagreement concerning the financial components of the project. At the time, JMU presented a public-private proposal asking for a $10 million contribution from the city which would be coming back directly in the form of taxes in less than two years.

CC MeetingFor JMU’s School of Hospitality Sports and Recreation Management, the idea of implementing an on-campus hotel would work to provide an excellent training ground for students. Dr. Michael O’Fallon, Director and associate professor in the School, strongly believes the hotel and conference center will benefit both JMU and the local community, and will allow hospitality majors at JMU to gain national recognition. 

Media Coverage after Hotel and Conference center proposal is approved by the Harrisonburg city council

After last June’s disappointing news over this project dying and JMU backing out, the JMU Hotel & Conference center was back on the table with the promise of construction beginning soon.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014 became a historic day as a first step toward this project becoming a reality. The Madison Hotel & Shenandoah Conference Center was once again on the agenda for the October 14 Harrisonburg City Council meeting and public hearing. After more than one hour of public discussion, it was approved.

CC LocationDr. Michael O’Fallon participated with a small group of hospitality management students making the case for the need of the facility as an educational opportunity. “As I see it, the hotel and conference center will be our students’ learning laboratory,” O’Fallon said. “Our industry is hands-on, and this hotel and conference center will provide our students with a learning environment that is unprecedented anywhere else.” Opposition to the project came from hotel owners in the region who saw the project as competition and lacking a strategic perspective with enormous economic benefits to the city and the region in terms of visitors and business.  From public documents, we know the project has two sections and a support facility. The location has been announced to be at the corner of South Main Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Way and construction is scheduled to be finished by late fall 2016.

JMU continues to move their strategic plan of enhancing facilities into the agenda and its approach to this project is not a medium hold (five to ten years), or a quick turn as a long−term investment. However, the time of this contract has not been revealed publicly. It also seems clear that administration wants to maintain most of the ownership of the asset by selecting a single company, often referred to as a brand manager, to provide both the brand and the operational expertise to manage the property.

The company to manage the property is dpM Partners, a company that focuses on development and asset management of upper tier select-service and upscale full-service hotels. Examples of such hotels include
 major brands such as Marriott, Hilton, Starwood and Hyatt. Mr. Paul Gladd is the principal and co-Owner of dpM Partners. He is also a 1987 graduate of JMU.

The architectural firm for the Conference Center is  Beatty, Harvey, Coco (BHC) Architects. BHC was founded in 1880 and  was ranked as one of the 'Top 100 Design Firms in the Nation' by Architect Magazine in 2009.

Published: Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Last Updated: Saturday, February 10, 2018

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