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Work gets underway this week on apartments at former Reynolds Metals site in downtown Richmond

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Print this page by Paula C. Squires

After years of planning, work begins this week on a key apartment project along the Canal Walk in downtown Richmond.  The action comes following last week’s closing by WVS Cos. and Fountainhead Properties on a $35 million deal to acquire five former aluminum manufacuturing buildings on seven acres along the Haxall Canal. The joint partners bought the land, known as the Reynolds North Packaging Plant, from Reynolds Group Holdings. It paid about $7.3 million for the land, with the rest of the money earmarked for construction.

“This is just the first phase,” Tom Papa, a principal with Fountainhead Properties, said of the demolition work that begins this week on what will be 175 apartments and 8,000 square feet of retail space. “Things like windows will need to be dismantled and preserved and then put back in later,” Papa told Virginia Business. 
Eventually, he said, total build out of the mixed-use project would run into the hundreds of millions of dollars if plans for a 20-plus office tower, a hotel and retail uses along the Canal materialize.

Built from the late 1800s to the early 1900s, the five buildings between South 10th and 12th Streets that will be converted into apartments were formerly used to package aluminum foil.  This property is the last piece of undeveloped land along Richmond’s Canal Walk. 

In what is known as the Italianate building, Papa says the developers are holding 6,000 square feet of space on the ground level for a restaurant tenant. “We’d like something that fits the San Antonio mode — tables, chairs and music on the canal,” he said. “We have talked to quite a few, mostly local restaurant owners. What we’re trying to do is give the better local restaurants a first shot.”

The apartments, which should be ready by the end of the year, would be within blocks of Shockoe Bottom restaurants, major law firms and other downtown businesses. 
The project was announced in 2010, but the developers had difficulty getting financing. The money for the first phase is coming from the Virginia Housing Development Authority and Union First Market Bank, said Papa.  Because of the delays, though, he said, “It was the first project where I had a building permit on the day that I closed.”


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