Shockoe Slip. Manchester. Scott’s Addition. Jefferson Davis Highway.
Within 10 to 15 years, developer Tom Wilkinson with Richmond-based Maramjen Investments hopes the industrial stretch of the South Richmond slice of U.S. 1 will become the latest hotbed of revitalization in a city with a fixed footprint and waning growth options.
To that end, his sights are set on the shuttered American Tobacco plant at 800 Jefferson Davis Highway, sandwiched between a city of Richmond public utilities office and the former Model Tobacco building.
Wilkinson said he plans to close on the property this summer. He envisions a $29 million conversion of the building’s warehouse space to affordable housing, followed by the conversion of 170,000-square-foot tobacco sheds to artisan workshops.
“It’s an area that’s at best in transition,” he said. “Right now, it’s a somewhat dangerous area.”
Wilkinson’s plans recently received a boost from the Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority board, which gave preliminary approval for developers to pursue a financing package that could include up to $17 million in tax-exempt revenue bonds issued by the authority.
The authority would not guarantee the loan or assume any liability; BB&T Capital Markets has agreed to fund the bond, according to Wilkinson.
As planned, the project — which must go before the city’s Planning Commission and City Council before work can begin — would include about 145 apartment units with rents starting at $750, including electricity, internet, DirecTV and on-site staff. One-bedroom units would be about 650 square feet and two-bedroom units 850 square feet.
A report presented to the board lists plans for wood floors, granite countertops and the oversized, original factory windows. The plans also call for a swimming pool, fitness center and café for the development.
“There’s not really a downside from the Housing Authority’s perspective,” Michael W. Graff Jr., a bond specialist with the law firm of McGuireWoods, told the board. “You charge a fee. All of your costs and expenses are covered by the (developers).”
The Better Housing Coalition of Richmond has been selected to manage the property. City-based Walter Parks Architects also is involved. The list of developers presented to the authority also includes Christian Shield, Vie Lowden and Sherbert Consulting.