Salamander Resort and Spa, Salamander Middleburg

Middleburg, Virginia, United States



Project Summary

It was a vision of creating a sustainable estate of uncompromising quality in the heart of Virginia’s horse and wine country that inspired Salamander Hotel and Resorts Founder and CEO Dr. Sheila C. Johnson to plan a 340 acre, $170 million, five-star resort just outside Middleburg, VA. Salamander Resort and Spa, a stylish addition to her existing portfolio, includes 168 elegant rooms and suites, a state-of-the-art spa, a full-service equestrian center, multiple dining venues, a cooking studio, and more than 50,000 SF of meeting and event space.


After two project management firms were unable to get Johnson’s vision off the ground, MGAC was engaged as Owner’s Representative to manage the design and construction of the luxury property. When an initial cost study of the original site program revealed the concept did not make economic sense, we issued two additional rounds of program exploration to arrive at an economically viable capacity. With a new plan, team, and design in place, we broke ground, began construction—and set the project on a path to financial success.


Securing the resort’s place in this pastoral community required navigating complex challenges. To achieve the desired 168 room capacity, the town required the construction of a new water and wastewater treatment facility to be built into the project scope. We also had to win the locals over: Middleburg is home to environmentally conscious residents who are proud and protective of the pristine rural lands they call home. As such, the project faced significant initial community opposition and numerous zoning and entitlement challenges.

Success Factors

To move forward, we attended 25 public and private hearings and town hall meetings. The campaign paid off, and we were successful in winning town annexation of the property from Loudoun County and directing a 12 month zoning, entitlement, and approvals process. Our team oversaw extensive transportation planning under the supervision of the Virginia Department of Transportation and incorporated a significant historical architecture review of the property’s historic structures in order to secure approval by the town’s landscape committee.


Environmental responsibility was key to the project’s success—both to address the community’s concerns and to achieve Johnson’s sustainable vision. The project incorporated significant wetland mitigation, as well as the preservation of 189 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.