Former halfway house gets its own second chance

An abandoned dormitory on West Grace Street is getting an apartment makeover.

Jernigan Hall
, at 314 W. Grace St., is being developed into 36 one-bedroom apartments through a joint venture between City & Guilds and the Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority.

RRHA is providing the property, which it acquired from convicted slumlord Oliver Lawrence in 2008, and City & Guilds will develop and manage the property. Both entities will share revenue generated by the rented apartments.

David Gammino, principal of City & Guilds, said the renovation would cost about $3 million with financing provided by First Community Bank.

“It is a very non-descript building. We are going to try and shine it up and draw out its mid-century elements to the best of our ability,” Gammino said.

David Gamino, Owner of City & Guilds

Gammino also purchased the adjacent row house, which is condemned, and plans to tear it down and add parking.

The 20,000-square-foot building has been vacant for years and was most recently used as a halfway house in the 1980s, Gammino said. It was built in 1966 as a women’s dormitory for Richmond Professional Institute, which evolved into Virginia Commonwealth University.

The project is a second chance of sorts for Gammino, who considered buying the building several years ago to convert it into condominiums. He even had plans drawn up by Walter Parks Architect, but the owner at the time sold to Lawrence before Gammino was able to pull the trigger.

Walter Parks created new plans for the current project, which involves combining two dorm rooms to make one apartment unit. Gammino said the apartments will rent for about $850, and he plans to finish the project in September.

Gammino said he started talking to RRHA about the property while buying another building from them at 2700 Idlewood Ave. That project is almost finished and consists of 23 apartments. It was formerly apartments for seniors.

RRHA has partnered with private developers in the past, including on such projects as Cary Place and Miller & Rhoads.

“They have some great inventory,” Gammino said. “This twist to their business model takes a property and puts it to its highest and best use, which helps them serve their core constituency by maximizing cash flow.”

Osita Iroegbu, a spokeswoman for RRHA, said in an email that the collaboration with City & Guilds is a continuation of the housing group’s push to partner with private developers to further its mission.

“After a careful solicitation process, RRHA selected City and Guilds as our partner to redevelop the property into quality, market-rate apartments to take advantage of an excellent revitalization opportunity in downtown Richmond,” Iroegbu said.

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7 Comments on "Former halfway house gets its own second chance"

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Carter Snipes

Great example of public/private partnership. this building has long needed attention. Good to see it coming to life.

Cynthia Oliver

David, congrats on this acquisition! I look forward to seeing how you can shine this up!

Chris Terrell
As a former letter carrier I walked this route for a few months in 1995 when the regular carrier was out for a few months. The physical distance between West Grace Street and West Franklin is only one block, but the differences in those two blocks couldn’t have been more stark. The Commonwealth Club is at 401 W. Franklin, just two short blocks away from this building. Businesses lined the other side of the block. High rise apartments occupied the next few blocks along with some other small businesses. To be kind, most of 100 – 500 West Grace did… Read more »

This is great news, but its a shame they are not renovating the rowhouse instead of creating another ugly surface parking lot. Too many ugly surface parking lots downtown now.


Sounds like it will be a great project – and a good chance to highlight the potential of the city’s mid-century buildings. A bit sorry to hear that the adjacent row house will be demolished for parking, however – there are far too many vacant lots and surface parking lots on Grace Street right now. It would be nice if one of the existing lots could be secured for tenant use – or if tenants could use a nearby deck.


Why would you tear down another pice of the urban infill ?

Kevin Anderson

They are tearing it down because it has been condemned, no one can use it.