Case Study :

Salamander Resort & Spa, Middleburg, Virginia




01  Challenge


Businesswoman, co-founder of BET, and founder and CEO of Salamander Hotels and Resorts, Dr. Sheila C. Johnson had a vision for her Salamander Resort & Spa – create a sustainable country estate of uncompromising quality that fosters healthy lifestyles for its guests and the Middleburg community alike.

After two other project management firms were unable to get the project off the ground, we were engaged by Salamander as owner’s representatives to manage the design and construction of their luxury property – and make Dr. Johnson’s vision a reality.

02  Details


The original site program, a cluster of individual cottages surrounding a central public space, reflected the wooded setting. However, our initial cost study proved the concept did not make economic sense.

Once engaged, we worked alongside Salamander’s Vice President to reconsider the program, rebuild the design team, and manage the complete redesign and construction of the 340-acre, $170 million, five-star resort. This process included two additional rounds of program exploration which led to an economically viable capacity of 168 luxury rooms and suites. With a new plan, team, and design in place, we did what the two firms before us couldn’t – broke ground, began construction, and set the project on a path to financial success.

“Expertise of the industry and construction is critical to us. So are management, people, and relationship skills. Whomever we work with needs to have the same passion for doing something that is high quality and unique. A commitment to seeing the owners’ vision all the way through without compromise. MGAC has been all of those qualities and more.”

- Prem Devadas, President, Salamander Hotels & Resorts



03  Complexities

Known as the “Nation’s Horse and Hunt Capital,” Middleburg, Virginia is a bucolic, historic community of environmentally conscious people who are proud and protective of the pristine, rural lands they call home.

As such, the project faced community opposition and numerous zoning and entitlement challenges. After attending and participating in 25 public and private hearings and town hall meetings, we were ultimately successful in winning town annexation of the property from Loudoun County. We also led a 12-month zoning, entitlement, and approvals process. And, to achieve the desired 168-room capacity, the Town of Middleburg required the construction of a new water and wastewater treatment facility be built into the project scope. In addition, extensive transportation planning, under the supervision of the Virginia Department of Transportation, was required, as was significant historical architecture review and approval by the Town’s landscape committee to preserve the existing historic properties and on-site wetlands. Throughout construction, Loudoun County conducted frequent inspections of the project, which ultimately required – and received – approval by the Town of Middleburg.

04  Environmental Impacts


Environmental responsibility was key to the project’s success – both to address the community’s concerns and to achieve our client’s sustainable vision. The final approved design incorporated substantial wetland mitigation, as well as the preservation of 80 undisturbed acres, which were permanently dedicated to the Potomac Conservancy. Often overlooked, the project team also conducted extensive studies on light pollution to preserve the site’s natural setting.

The completed resort features 168 elegant rooms and suites, sweeping public spaces, a state-of-the-art spa, three swimming pools, a fitness center, cooking studio, multiple dining venues, 50,000 SF of unique indoor and outdoor meeting and event space, including a 5,000 SF Grand Ballroom, and a full-service equestrian center.

05  Results

One of the nation’s first LEED Certified luxury resorts, Salamander Resort and Spa was recognized with a Merit Washington Contractor Award with Turner Construction Company, as well as Readers Choice Awards for Best Resorts in the South by Conde Nast Traveler, 2014 Top Destination Spas Worldwide by the Wall Street Journal, and 2014’s Best New Wellness Travel Property by Spafinder.

Perhaps most importantly – through the completion of this sustainable luxury resort that blends seamlessly into its stunning, tranquil community – we had the opportunity to bring Sheila Johnson’s vision to life.

project services

  • Owner's Representation
  • Project Management
  • Budget/Schedule Creation and Management
  • Construction Management
  • Vendor Sourcing and Coordination
Let Dermot and his team help make your mission real.
contact us

dermot ryan

Managing Director


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