By Paula C. Squires
One of downtown Richmond’s most iconic buildings, a former hydroelectric plant on the banks of the Haxall Canal, is for sale for $3.5 million. Known for its massive smokestack, the building is being offered by its owner at a time when development in and around the canal is taking off.
Listing broker Jeffrey Cooke, a senior vice president with Cushman & Wakefield | Thalhimer, said the building’s owner, The Cordish Cos. out of Baltimore, signed a contract last week with Thalhimer to sell or lease the building.
According to Cooke, Cordish bought the building back in 2000 back when the Riverside on the James Development was first underway. It invested a substantial amount to put in a finished floor and other upgrades so that the plant, formerly used by Virginia Electric Power Co. to power downtown Richmond, could be reused.
The plant, built in 1899, was in operation until about the 1950s. Cooke said it closed for good in 1969 after being damaged by Hurricane Camille. Its location on a historic canal and its unique smokestack caught the eye of Cordish, a developer known for its redevelopment projects. Cordish is currently working on the renovation of Waterside in downtown Norfolk, with the city transitioning the project from a retail center into a restaurant and entertainment venue.
The power plant building in Richmond is adjacent to a former industrial area that is being reborn into a mixed-use area of work, live, play. Next door is Riverside on the James, where the Troutman Saunders law firm is located in a 15-story tower. The space also includes a 10-story condominium project. Across the canal, a new Mexican restaurant, Casa del Barco, and apartments recently opened in the former Reynolds North development, where Reynolds aluminum foil used to be packaged.
Asked why Cordish isn’t moving forward with plans for the building’s development, Cooke said, “Cordish has become a very large company. They’re doing larger projects in larger cities. I think this was a little too small, and it fell off the radar for while … If we got a good tenant, they would keep the building.”
Key to the building’s future use is the construction of a planned pedestrian bridge that would connect the site to the other side of the canal. Cooke says the City of Richmond has appropriated funds for the project. “We’re just trying to get them to kick it off.”
Cooke envisions the power plant, with its 38-foot tall ceiling, as a good location for restaurants, with outdoor dining overlooking the canal, or a micro brewery. “It will probably end up as some type of mixed-use, retail, entertainment type building ... It’s what we Richmonders love. It has some history.“
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