Hostel Takeover

When we moved to Cville in December, one of our goals was to help start collective businesses. Initially, this felt very intimidated to me–I’ve never thought of myself as an entrepreneur or as being particularly business savvy. And now we are poised to take over Alexander House, Cville’s only hostel. A group of 7 of us will convert it into a collectively owned-and-run businesses, taking ownership October 1st.

The idea of a hostel-as-community center first came up in September, when we convened with a bunch of ex Twin Oakers to talk about building community in the Charlottesville area. Everyone had lots of great ideas for communal resources: a kitchen, a woodshop, a toolshed, an artspace, a school/learning space, etc. And we quickly realized that all of these projects shared the common need for a SPACE. From there it was a short hop to bring in Alexander House, Cville’s largely unsung yet charmingly lovely hostel. The idea was to combine the community space with the hostel, creating a funding stream for the community space while fostering a lively and interesting resting place for travelers.

Time passed, we got busy with other things (European communities tour, moving to Cville, becoming gardeners). The hostel idea fell by the wayside for many months. Then in May, as we were beginning to feel more settled in town and had several projects underway, our friend Lun randomly mentioned her desire to start a collectively run hostel/community center. With our autumnal conversations still ringing in my ears, I said YES immediately. Relatively quickly, we pulled together a group of 7 friends who all have energy and excitement for this shared vision. We arranged to meet with Mare, the current owner of Alexander House. After 5 years, she was ready to pass on the business for a mere $16,000 (including passing on the lease to the property).

Alexander House is small and somewhat swanky, more of a low-scale bed and breakfast. It has three bedrooms with a total of seven beds. Currently, Mare does little to no advertising and the business does fine. Our vision is to provide welcoming and affordable accommodation for people visiting the Charlottesville community, while creating a socially and environmentally conscious cooperative work environment for our worker-owners. Alexander will be a great place to cut our teeth on the ins-and-outs of collectively running a hostel, to get a feel for the systems and to work out the kinks. Once we’ve got it running smoothly, we’ll expand to a second location. We have many visions for this second location. We’ve talked about it being more down-scale; more funky, anarchistic, artsy, bohemian style; cheaper and with opportunities for work-trade or barter. We’d like it to include more community center aspects; zines and resources, an events space, a juice bar, etc. And we envision it having more places for the larger community to plug in, creating a synergistic relationship between the local community and travelers who are coming through. Eventually, we may even expand to 3 or more locations.

So far, our group has been working together very well. Its all come together very quickly, and it feels comfortable and natural. Its an exciting project to jump into…stay tuned for more!


~ by karmakas on August 5, 2009.

One Response to “Hostel Takeover”

  1. How’s it going? Interested in developing a hostel/community center with a friend.

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