The partnership between Markel | Eagle and Diversified Realty Ventures just got a little more pious.
The Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond is the latest tenant to sign on at Villa Park I, the 78,000-square-foot property that the development duo bought in 2011 for $4.3 million.
The seminary will occupy 17,000 square feet of the building, joining LabCorp, River City Janitorial and engineering firm HC Yu and Associates.
The school, which trains aspiring ministers, is at 3400 Brook Road in Ginter Park but announced in January that it was selling most of its campus to the Veritas School, a private Christian school.
“We had way more space than we needed,” said Baptist Theological Seminary president Ron Crawford. “Our campus is about 106,000, square feet and all we’ll ever need is about 30,000 square feet.”
The organization is aiming to be in Villa Park I in time for the fall semester, Crawford said. Construction at its new space will run about $500,000.
Its Brook Road campus comprises four buildings, including the two that will be sold this year to Veritas. Those buildings are 39,000 square feet and 21,000 square feet.
Crawford would not comment on how much Veritas is paying for the buildings. Veritas has also said it would buy a 16-unit student apartment building on campus, but that deal might not close until 2020, Crawford said.
Crawford said that, in addition to the excess space, the school didn’t need a residential campus anymore.
“The demographics for seminary are changing,” he said “Thirty years ago, 90 percent of the students were in their 20s. Increasingly, we’re seeing students come to seminary as a second career, and the demographics for that are anywhere from 35 to up to 60 years of age. And often they live within a couple hours’ drive.”
The fourth building, an old nurses’ dorm for Richmond Memorial Hospital, is up for sale. Crawford said it is zoned for a possible condo conversion.
Spilman Short, a principal at Diversified Realty Ventures, said the signing of the lease with the seminary is imminent.
“This deal is on the fast track,” Short said. “We have a signed letter of intent and money in escrow, and we are already drawing up construction contracts. But right now we’re kind of moving forward on a handshake deal.”
Crawford said he expects to sign the lease at Villa Park next week.
DRV and Markel | Eagle, the private equity arm of the Eagle Companies, have several tenants in talks for the remaining 7,300 square feet at the building, Short said.
Rent for the space starts at about $9 per square foot per year.