Two months after it started selling cars locally, a national used-car retailer is looking to make a towering impression on the Richmond auto market.
Carvana, a 3-year-old online dealership that offers shop-at-home car buying, has filed plans with Henrico County to build an 8,200-square-foot auto fulfillment center with a 6½-story glass-and-steel tower it calls the world’s first-ever fully automated, coin-operated “car vending machine.”
The 71-foot-tall tower, which would dispense cars to customers who have purchased them through the company’s website, would take shape on an undeveloped 1.3-acre portion of Tom Leonard’s Farmers Market’s 6.3-acre parcel at 4150 Tom Leonard Drive. The site runs alongside Interstate 64 – just up and across the interstate from the original location of locally based used-car sales industry leader CarMax.
Arizona-based Carvana, which entered the Richmond market in late June, is requesting a special-use permit and amendment to proffered conditions that currently prohibit auto sales on the site. The land is zoned for industrial use. The permit would allow for an exception to current height standards, allowing for a building height of up to 75 feet.
The project would represent an initial investment of $6 million, including an initial capital expenditure of $4.5 million, according to documents filed last week by attorney Andrew Condlin of Roth Doner Jackson Gibbons Condlin, who is representing Carvana in the application process.
When Carvana pulled into the Richmond market in June, it secured a distribution space at an undisclosed location in Petersburg. Cars purchased through its website are typically shipped to that site and delivered to customers at their homes, but customers who want to pick up their cars at a physical location would be able to do so at the Short Pump site.
Purchasers would be mailed a token that they would use to activate the vending machine, which would then automatically lower and present the purchased car. The facility, called a fulfillment and welcome center, would be similar to one Carvana constructed in Nashville, Tennessee. Four more vending machines are under construction in Texas, in Dallas, Houston and Austin.
If approved, the project would be a bold statement for Carvana’s entry into Richmond, the hometown of CarMax. The site is within a mile of CarMax’s original location near Innsbrook and three miles from CarMax’s corporate headquarters in Goochland County.
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