Dec 29

Shockoe Bottom firehouse part of block-wide plan

December 29, 2008 by Al Haris

firehouserendering

A derelict block in Shockoe Bottom is about to get a major makeover.

A group of local developers plans to turn the block into a mixed-use development with more than 200 residential units, 12,000 square feet of retail space and a restaurant.

Construction could start next month.

Developer Marcus Galt has spent the past two years acquiring parcels on Main and Franklin streets between 20th and 21st streets. He and his partners, Tom Dickey and Chris Johnson of Monument Construction, also plan to renovate a late 19th-century firehouse.

“We are ready to go. We just need for the banks to ease up,” Galt said, adding that he and his crew have been waiting two and half months for financing. Galt said he has a verbal agreement with a bank.

The first phase of the $35 million project will turn a late 19th-century bobber factory (the kind used for fishing) on the corner of Franklin and 20th streets into 42 residential units. To qualify for historic tax credits, the units have to be rented for five years. After that, they might be converted to condominiums and sold, Galt said.

In the second phase, crews will demolish the Secrets in the City nightclub on Franklin Street. That space will be used for a five-story residential building with 110 units and an underground parking garage.

The third and final phase, which is expected to begin in 2010, centers on the old firehouse on Main Street. The developers plan to restore the firehouse, which dates to the 1890s, and find a restaurant to fill its space. Depending on the tenant, the restaurant could be one or two stories. If the restaurant only occupies the bottom level, the second floor will be residential. The developers will also seek historic tax credits for the firehouse restoration.

“Even if it weren’t for the tax credits, we would keep it because it’s a part of the history and fabric of downtown,” Dickey said.

The later addition to the firehouse, which most recently was home to a gear-making company, will be torn down to become 12,000 square feet of street-level retail. The second floors might work as residential or office space. Galt also said they are looking to bring in a small urban grocery store. At one point they were in discussions with Gold’s Gym, but nothing has been finalized.

“For the ideal user, we will redesign,” Galt said.

The only piece of the block not owned by Galt and his partners is one of the oldest Jewish cemeteries in Virginia. It is located on a narrow parcel of land next to the empty nightclub, but Galt said they will be able to build around it and will pursue talks with the cemetery’s owner and caretakers.

Al Harris covers commercial real estate for BizSense. Please send story tips to Al@richmondbizsense.com