2 French properties back on track

Two properties previously owned by convicted tax schemer and former developer Justin French are back on track to be converted into apartments.

Developer David Gammino picked up the two properties in Scott’s Addition from Union First Market Bank, which took back the properties last year after French defaulted on bank loans.

“I have a lot of confidence in the Scott’s Addition area,” Gammino said. “It has the potential to be a great residential neighborhood located where it is with strong amenities on the Boulevard, and it is super convenient to get anywhere.”

Gammino closed on the properties in mid-July. The larger is 2906 W. Clay St., a 44,000-square-foot vacant office building. Gammino said he will convert it into 38 apartments, with a total development cost of $5.1 million. That figure includes $1.25 million to purchase the property. Financing is being provided by Virginia Community Capital. Historic tax credits are also being applied for, Gammino said.

The property had already been granted a special-use permit, which had been requested by French before his financial and legal troubles became public.

Gammino’s company City & Guilds Construction had previously been employed by French to work on various Scott’s Addition projects, including this one. As part of French’s scheme to inflate the value of historic tax credits, he forged invoices from City & Guilds and other contractors to reflect higher costs.

“I was familiar with the building and had worked originally on budgeting the project. Since I was familiar with the construction documents and the SUP, it was sort of teed up, ready to go,” Gammino said.

Union first contracted with another group to buy the building, but their contract expired, Gammino said. He made an offer on the building last December, the same time as the other group.

The completed project will feature one- and two-bedroom units renting for about $1,000 a month and geared toward young professionals.

Gammino also picked up another building previously owned by French at 3122 W. Clay St., a 14,000-square-foot office building, for $475,000.

Development is still in the planning stages, Gammino said.

“That’s an existing office building that has tenants. We just now are beginning the design process,” Gammino said. “We hope by January to have the ability get construction going on that.”

In the meantime, Gammino is wrapping up two other projects: Jernigan Hall, a former dormitory on West Grace Street, and one of the Cold Storage complex buildings in Shockoe Bottom. Both are slated for completion in late fall or early winter.

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