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VCU continues to drive development

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There’s a rash of new development in and around Virginia Commonwealth University. Long a driver for new development in Richmond, the university continues to attract both private and public projects.

Demolition is expected to get underway by the end of the month for a private, $22 million, 11-story residential high rise and a public $15 million, seven-story office/retail project. 

ShaferGrace LLC, a private developer, will build the 152-unit apartment project on West Grace Street, across from Shafer Street. The principals are Phil Roper and George Emerson. “They are doing this on their own with no guarantees or leasing from the university,” said Brian J. Ohlinger, VCU’s associate vice president for facilities management. “Our take on it is that they will probably fill them the minute they open them, because of the location.” The housing is supposed to be ready by fall 2014.

Roper also is working with the VCU Real Estate Foundation to develop the a 78,000-square-foot office/retail project, which will be located next to the new high rise. It will have retail on the first floor and house the university’s program of global education, providing offices and administrative space.  “If we do it through our real estate foundation, we get better construction costs than if we do it as a state project,” Ohlinger explained.

That project should be ready by November 2014. “We will own it. We’re paying all the bills,” he added.

The VCU Foundation is busy with another project on Broad Street, near Laurel and Grace Streets. “We are going to renovate that, and it will be used by the School of the Arts,” said Ohlinger. Combined with two old warehouses in the back of the site, that represents 30,000 square feet of space, some of which will be used for VCU’s dance programs.

A little further down Broad Street at its intersection with the Boulevard, the Rebkee Co., a local developer in Midlothian, plans to break ground March 27 on $23 million apartment project at the former Interbake cookie factory.  In what is a joint venture, the company plans to have 70 apartments ready by the end of the year and a total of 178 units by 2014. The first floor of the 240,000-square–foot building will include retail.

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