The historic buildings in Church Hill that for 45 years housed the now-closed 2300 Club might be turned into four more apartments.
The owners of the building on East Grace Street near North 23rd Street are “seriously contemplating” adding the apartment units on the first floor. Four apartments already exist on the second floor.
“We are studying it. There have been no definite decisions,” said David Branch, a Henrico County lawyer whose wife, Catherine, and her sister inherited the property in 2013. He serves as the trustee for the trust that oversees his sister-in-law’s ownership of the property.
“We invited neighbors in a two-block radius to come over in February, and we showed them some rough sketches of what we want to do downstairs,” he said. “There is no secret that we want to do it. We just have not finalized the plans. We are working toward that end.”
No specific timetable has been set, but Branch said the hope is a decision will be made this year. The owners are in the process of engaging an architect to draw detailed plans, he said.
The building’s owners are moving forward now that the 2300 Club, a dining and social club that had operated at the 2218 E. Grace St. location since 1972, suspended operations in January after years of dwindling membership and increasing financial problems.
The membership voted in December 2013 to close the club. But Catherine Branch approached the club’s board and wanted to give it one last effort “before giving up the ship,” her husband said.
She became the club’s president and general manager and, for the past three years, she, along with a core of longtime members, tried to turn operations around, he said. The club hired a new chef (Michael Hall operated there for nearly two years before leaving to open his Spoonbread Bistro restaurant in the Fan District last year), added better wine and beer offerings, and raised monthly membership dues from $35 to $75.
Membership increased slightly. For instance, when the Bull & Bear Club closed in mid-2015, some of its members joined the 2300 Club. But the 2300 Club club couldn’t reach the 150-member threshold needed in order to survive, Branch said.
The 2300 Club was founded in 1964 — initially located at 2300 E. Broad St. — at a time when there were no restaurants in Church Hill and before liquor-by-the-drink laws were approved in Virginia.
It moved to 2218 E. Grace St. when Douglas Fleet, a philanthropist who helped restore Church Hill, bought the property and renovated it.
The property is actually four row houses that were built in the late 1800s. The houses were connected inside to allow for the club.
Branch, whose father-in-law bought the property in 1996, said the highest and best use of the building is for four apartments on the first floor.
Four apartments have existed for years on the second floor, and the owners upgraded the kitchens in 2014 and 2015. And a Richmond zoning administrator sent Branch a confirmation letter saying that the four first-floor apartments are allowed under current zoning laws.
“We can’t let the building stay vacant,” Branch said. “There are not so many uses that you can make for the building.”