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Grace Street demolitions make way for ICA

Jonathan Spiers May 10, 2017 3

Demolition crews take down a building to make way for parking for the ICA, visible in the background. (Jonathan Spiers)

Demolition crews take down a building to make way for parking for the ICA, visible in the background. (Jonathan Spiers)

VCU’s forthcoming Institute for Contemporary Art is getting some more elbow room.

Demolition crews with Chesterfield-based C.D. Hall Construction spent the start of this week tearing down a three-story, 1920s-era apartment building at 616 W. Grace St., next door to the former Evergreen Restaurant building that also was recently demolished.

The buildings are making way for dedicated parking for the ICA, the 43,000-square-foot, $41 million art institution taking shape at the intersection of Belvidere and Broad streets. During media tours of the building last month, ICA representatives said surface parking, walkways and other site improvements would be completed by the building’s Oct. 28 opening, forming its university-facing entrance.

VCU purchased the apartment building in 2014 for $2.2 million, according to city property records. It purchased the Evergreen building last September for $2 million.

Chesterfield-based C.D. Hall Construction performed the demolition.

Chesterfield-based C.D. Hall Construction performed the demolition.

As the apartment building came down Monday and Tuesday, work continued on the ICA – an unusually shaped, metal-sided structure being built by Gilbane Building Co. It was designed by New York-based Steven Holl Architects and locally based BCWH Architects.

Its 1-acre site was donated to the school’s real estate foundation in 2014. In addition to the apartment and restaurant buildings along Grace Street, the school has purchased the since-demolished Hess gas station on the other side of Belvidere, paying $3.15 million in 2015.

A holdout on the ICA block is the Sunoco gas station at the corner of Grace and Belvidere. That property is owned by an LLC tied to local businessman Steve Uphoff, who has said he is coordinating with VCU on plans for a high-rise apartment building on the site.

The apartments and Evergreen building are the latest structures to fall along the university’s stretch of West Grace Street. Last year, the former Sahara restaurant at 813 W. Grace St. was torn down after VCU purchased it that January for $2.5 million – part of a $15 million bond package it approved in 2015.

The ICA is one of several sizable construction projects underway on VCU’s Monroe Park Campus. Along West Main Street across from the park, a 12-story, $96 million dorm project is going vertical, replacing a 30-year-old student housing complex that was taken down. And the park itself is undergoing a $6 million renovation that started late last year and is slated to last 12 to 18 months.

The under-construction ICA as viewed from Belvidere. (Jonathan Spiers)

The under-construction ICA as viewed from Belvidere. (Jonathan Spiers)

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  1. Bruce Milam May 10, 2017 at 10:36 am - Reply

    The City of Richmond residents thank VCU Foundation and all its contributors for clearing that block and building this unusual “work of art”.

  2. Lynn Abraham May 10, 2017 at 11:20 am - Reply

    Isn’t it rather short sighted to use the lots for surface parking? Why not build a contemporary garage that can accommodate the future visitors? It’s definitely going to be needed with all the events and its signature status. Go against the Richmond trend and plan for crowds beforehand and not after, when it’s too late and too expensive

  3. ron virgin May 10, 2017 at 11:41 am - Reply

    Even for custom modern architecture, $41 million should get you a lot more of a building than what ICA received. For $41 million they could have raised several stories on an entire city block. ICA got fleeced.

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