A Manchester developer has moved in on what had been the proposed site of a homeless shelter after the original sale of the property to a nonprofit fell through.
Ben Adamson of Corinthian Construction said Friday that he had the old church at 1101 Bainbridge St. under contract shortly after plans between Commonwealth Catholic Charities and the seller dissolved.
“The timing of it looks suspect, but it’s something that I’ve been interested in,” Adamson said. “It’s not an out-of-the-blue thing.”
Adamson owns several properties in the neighborhood and this spring announced plans for a 33-unit mixed-use project on McDonough Street, a few blocks from the Bainbridge property.
He would not disclose the value of the sale, which includes three parcels that are assessed by the city for a cumulative $742,000. He said he did not have any immediate plans for the properties.
Earlier this month, CCC said it planned to apply for a special-use permit to open a shelter serving the homeless at the South Richmond site. Those plans were contingent on the sale of the property, which the charity said early Friday had fallen through.
“We simply could not accomplish the necessary steps to purchase the property within the time constraints of the existing agreement,” said Jay Brown, the nonprofit’s division director of housing services. He would not elaborate.
As envisioned, the nonprofit’s proposed facility would have provided wraparound services and 200 beds for the city’s cold-weather overflow shelter.
CCC currently operates the overflow shelter at the city-owned Public Safety Building on North Ninth Street. It is open between October and mid-April when temperatures are forecast to dip below 40 degrees. Conditions at the decrepit downtown location are poor. City leaders and the nonprofit have said they have searched for a better site since 2015.
Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney backed the proposed Manchester location earlier this month. He had previously pledged to move the overflow shelter to a new site before winter arrives. With the Manchester site off the table, Stoney said he would continue working with CCC to find an alternative.
“It would be absolutely unacceptable to go for another season in the Public Safety Building,” Stoney said. “There’s nothing right now that’s in the works, but if we have to consider other city facilities to house the shelter, we’ll do so. The current location is absolutely unacceptable.”
The Public Safety Building is also part of an ongoing negotiation between Stoney’s administration and a private development group that is proposing to redevelop a valuable swath of publicly owned downtown real estate around a new Richmond Coliseum. Stoney has said his desire to move the shelter is not related to the arena plans.
The proposed site in Manchester was met with immediate pushback from neighbors, business owners and investors in the neighborhood. Many expressed safety concerns about the possibility of a shelter opening in a residential area, and questioned whether it would hurt property values.
Others said they believed the site was ill-suited for a shelter because it does not have services to support a large homeless population, like a grocery store or immediate access to health care.
Stoney said some of the negative reactions didn’t sit well with him.
“I didn’t see the sort of compassion that I had hoped for in this discussion,” Stoney said. “I think we need to keep that at the center of future debates about housing those who lack a shelter.”
In a statement, Brown said CCC will continue to search for another site.
“We will continue to search for an alternative location to house our services for people experiencing homelessness, including the emergency cold-weather overflow shelter,” Brown said. “The most vulnerable members of our community deserve our respect and care. As advocates, we will continue to work on their behalf to find a more suitable location.”
While he did not personally believe the property was well-suited for the shelter, Adamson said he and others in the neighborhood were willing to assist with finding another location.
Said Adamson, “I get that the optics of it aren’t great, but we are concerned about the homeless, and we want them to find a good home that makes sense for them in terms of location and services.”