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Douglas Development begins rehabilitation of former Central National Bank

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Construction has finally begun on the former Central National Bank building on East Broad Street in downtown Richmond.  Plans have been in the works for years for one of the city’s most iconic landmarks, and Monday the building’s owner, Douglas Development Corp., made it official: it’s converting the 23-story tower into a mixed-use project with 200 apartments and other amenities.

Based out of Washington, D.C., Douglas Development is working with Commonwealth Architects in Richmond and the W.M. Jordan Co., based out of Newport News.

This will be the company’s first residential building in Richmond and its first collaboration with Commonwealth Architects. Douglas Development currently owns several mixed-use office buildings in the city, including the former bank building at 800 East Broad Street and a six-story, class A office building at 411 East Franklin Street.

“The city is changing and more office buildings, restaurants, and shops are opening in downtown Richmond. Now the Central National Bank building will offer contemporary housing for those who want to live closer to work or school,” Douglas Development Principal and Senior Vice President Norman Jemal said in a statement.

Robert S. “Bob” Mills, principal of Commonwealth Architects, said in an interview with Virginia Business that “the building will serve as a beacon for downtown. It’s a key element in the revitalization of downtown that needed to happen. It will be the catalyst for much more development in that part of the city.”

Constructed in 1929-30, the redeveloped Central National Bank building will retain its Art Deco design with improvements made to the building’s interior and exterior. The limestone and brick facades will be restored, and existing windows refurbished and replaced with energy efficient glass and interior storm windows.

On the former bank’s upper floors, the rehabilitation will offer tenants more than 200 studio, one- and two-bedroom apartments of about 220,000 square feet. The building will provide modern amenities, including a fitness center, an outdoor pool, community rooms and outdoor entertainment areas. Resident parking will be provided at a nearby parking deck. 

The most significant interior space, according to Douglas Development, will be the existing public banking hall on the building’s first floor facing Broad Street. The soaring three-story hall includes large windows, a richly ornamented coffered ceiling, patterned terrazzo floors and bronze decorative features. The hall, along with ground floor retail, will be dedicated to future commercial use.

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the building will be marketed to graduate and international students attending the nearby schools of Virginia Commonwealth University, the VCU Health System and Virginia Union.  “In the First National Bank project (on Main Street that was converted into apartments] we have 95 percent of it filled,” said Mills. “We anticipate great success with Central National Bank.

Douglas Development Corp., the largest private property owner in the Washington, D.C. region, has completed more than 180 redevelopment projects. Currently, it owns and manages more than 8 million square feet of real estate and has more than 4 million square feet of developable property in the pipeline.  Founded by Douglas Jemal in 1985, the company  is known for preserving and redeveloping historic buildings, including the Woodward & Lothrop flagship building and Chinatown’s historic row across from the Verizon Center.

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