Developer picks up a Justin French fumble

1700 Summit Avenue

Louis Salomonsky has filed plans for 42 apartments at 1700 Summit Ave. (Photos by David Larter)

A longtime Richmond developer is resurrecting an infamous Justin French property and finishing what the imprisoned developer started.

Louis Salomonsky has filed plans for a 42-apartment complex at 1700 Summit Ave. in Scott’s Addition. French had just started the project when he was arrested and charged with nine felony counts related to a historic tax credit scheme.

3031 Norfolk Avenue

A sign for Justin French’s company still hangs on the building at 3031 Norfolk Ave.

Plans call for 40 one-bedroom apartments, two two-bedroom apartments, 5,000 square feet of retail and 115 parking spaces.

Salomonsky purchased the property off of the auction block in July, along with a second French property across the street at 3031 Norfolk Ave. for $2.66 million.

Salomonsky said that none of the renovations French started on the Summit Avenue property were salvageable and that his group is preparing to gut the building and start the rehab from scratch.

“There was already a special-use permit on the property, but we had to file another one because we reduced the number of units and made a number of changes,” Salomonsky said.

French envisioned 62 apartments for the building, a plan Salomonsky said he revised to ensure all the apartments would have exterior windows and to make room for indoor parking for both apartment buildings. That project should be finished by next winter, he said.

Salomonsky is also moving ahead with the renovations at 3031 Norfolk Ave. There he plans 90 apartments that should be ready for tenants this summer. The cost of both projects should run up about $17 million, he said.

French’s half-baked renovation of the Norfolk and Summit properties turned into an expensive debacle for the Bank of Hampton Roads. When French was locked up, the bank was left holding the bag to the tune of $18 million.

The bank accused French of lying about the progress of the renovations on the building to receive cash draws on his loan. The bank also sued French’s architect, Todd Dykshorn, and his general contractor, David Gammino of City and Guilds, claiming they aided French in the process. Dykshorn and Gammino denied any wrongdoing, and both cases are still being litigated.

The projects will add to a healthy stock of new apartments in the Scott’s Addition section of the city.

Developer Tom Wilkinson is working to close financing on a 130-unit apartment building at the old Richmond Fixture building on Clay Street. Gammino is working to finish 55 apartments in two buildings nearby.

Bruce Milam, a broker with Colliers International, said that with big projects such as the Interbake cookie factory, 3600 Center and the former Coca-Cola bottling plant in the works, almost 1,000 apartments are scheduled to come on the market in Scott’s Addition this year.

“To be quite frank, I think we’re going to scout out new territory next year because there are so many coming online in Scott’s Addition,” Milam said. “Scott’s Addition is such a great location, but that’s about 900 units coming on in a small area. It will be something to keep an eye on. Hopefully it will generate some need for some retail.”

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