GRTC seeks buyer for bus depot

The GRTC is looking for someone to take over its former bus depot. Photos by Michael Thompson.

The GRTC is looking for someone to take over its former bus depot. Photos by Michael Thompson.

About 7 acres of prime Fan area real estate is being put into play for the first time since the days of the electric trolley car.

The Greater Richmond Transit Co. last week issued a request for proposals for the sale of its bus depot property at 101 S. Davis Ave., just south of the Fan District and east of Carytown.

A sale would open up potential development on the 112-year-old property and its nine buildings that total 112,000 square feet. The site is bounded by Cary Street, Grayland Avenue, Stafford Avenue and Robinson Street.

Spokeswoman Carrie Rose Pace said GRTC plans to sell the property in “a way that provides the most value to the company.”

“We know there’s been a lot of interest from various development groups,” Pace said. “We certainly hope and anticipate that something will come through with great value to create a project that will transform the site.”

Proposals for the property will be accepted until July 8, and the winning bid is scheduled to be chosen in September. A pre-proposal conference and property walkthrough is scheduled for June 10.

Muralists repainted much of the old depot's walls a few years ago.

Muralists repainted much of the old depot’s walls a few years ago.

GRTC, a nonprofit owned by the city of Richmond and Chesterfield County, has owned the property since 1973 and used it until 2010, when bus maintenance and operations were moved to the Southside. The site had been in use for public transit since 1903.

In 2012, an intensive clean-up began to remove bus-related chemicals from the grounds. That process is expected to be completed in November.

As it sat idle during the cleaning process, the property got a makeover in 2013 when muralists were invited to splash some paint on the grounds as part of that year’s RVA Street Art Festival.

The site was most recently assessed by the city at $1.38 million, according to city records.

It’s zoned for mixed use, and the RFP explains that “Proposers must articulate an offer that presents the highest return to GRTC.”

GRTC bus depot

Proposals for the site will be accepted through early July.

Residents and business owners in and around the Fan have already begun considering what that highest return might look like.

Sticky ToGoGo owner Kevin Wilson, speaking as president for both the Uptown Association and Fan Area Business Alliance, said he hopes the future of the property will be guided, at least in part, by local residents and businesses. He suggested some sort of mixed-use development that doesn’t include a big-box retailer.

“Both organizations have an interest in seeing the interest of the community represented in what gets developed there,” Wilson said. “Parking is always going to come up. A designation that offers some amount of off-street protected parking would be very nice to see.”

Local developer Tom Papa said he didn’t have plans to submit a proposal, but said the property is ripe for a historic tax credit project. It is eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places.

Papa said he thought putting in shops could function as an eastern extension of Carytown.

“I think that Carytown would expand and infill if (the bus depot) were to become a mall,” Papa said. “When (the city) pays for parking, magical, wonderful things tend to happen.”

The property sits in District 5 of the city, which is represented by Councilman Parker Agelasto. He could not be reached for comment on Tuesday. The mayor’s office did not have a comment.

Pace, from GRTC, said “neighbors of the Davis Avenue site and the general public will have ample opportunity to weigh in on any proposal for re-development.” She added that public feedback will be directed to the new owner after the proposal process.

Pace said a GRTC review committee will help make the final decision as to who the buyer will be.

Pace said the GRTC chose to request proposals, as opposed to hiring a broker, because the Federal Transit Administration requires that federally funded sites like the bus depot be sold in a way that allows for competition among potential buyers.

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11 Comments on "GRTC seeks buyer for bus depot"

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Bruce Milam

Sites this size in the Fan area do not come along often, and maybe never again. Its difficult for me to imagine using the existing one story buildings as the highest and best use, historic tax credits or not. I predict that site will be scraped clean for a new mixed use development, potentially for a for-sale product behind a retail strip, or a multi-story Class A apartment building atop retail.

Brian Ezzelle

Bruce, hopefully you are dead wrong. The surviving shops of the Virginia Transit Co are some of the last nearly intact interurban shop facilities still standing in the nation.

And why is this property always referred to as a “bus depot”? It was a shop facility.

Brian Daugherity

For neighbors and Fan residents, new businesses would be welcome in that area, but not national/chain businesses or a big box development. It is a historic site. It would be a shame for it to be destroyed and then rebuilt. The Robinson Street corridor is already nice, and smart use of the GRTC site would basically connect it with Carytown.

Michael Dodson

My biggest concern is, as the RFP notes, that the public comment and input is AFTER the sale. Once a private owner takes the site they could demolish it and just put it back on the market. There are no requirements for use or redevelopment it only scores proposals on price and ability to close. Unless the new owner proposes something that needs a special use permit public opinion on the reuse is optional at best.

Tim Parker

I would love to see this done well. The potential is huge to have retail, commercial, residential as well as outdoor space involved with this development.

Also Brian Ezzelle, this was the GRTC bus depot for a long time I’m not sure where you heard that it wasn’t a depot. Before it was used for buses it was used for the electric trolley system in Richmond and was used as the GRTC depot until 2009. Very interesting history.

Brian Ezzelle

Tim, a depot is where passengers arrive and depart. Passengers never arrived and departed from the Robinson St shops, whether when it was still a street car shop for Virginia Transit or as GRTC bus facility. The Robinson Street shops was a repair and maintenance facility, period. Never a depot.

Michael Dodson

Wiki and both say that a bus garage or DEPOT is where buses are stored (aka a storehouse) when not in use. It can also be used to describe places people get on and off the buses.,

Mike Porch

First I really hope they do something great with this site. By great I mean for the people that actually live in the area. Although I do not currently live in Richmond I own a house less than 2 blocks from there and I do plan on coming back some day. I have been waiting for a decade for this. Now Brian, not to be rude but you might want to look up the word depot. Several very credible sources define it as a place to store motor vehicles, among other things. So it was a depot.

Brian Ezzelle

Per the definitive history of Richmond’s interurban rail network, “Rails In Richmond” by the late Carl McKenney, the facilities on Robinson St were known as the West End Bus & Car Shops (page 191), not as a depot. The main building in the first photo above was known as a carbarn. If you do not own a copy of this outstanding book I suggest you obtain a copy. Thanks!

Michael Porch

Today is the last day for proposals for the carbarn. Can’t wait to see how the city screws it up.

Michael Porch

3 weeks past deadline and…??? Nothing?!