A Richmond housing nonprofit is weighing its options for a stalled Scott’s Addition project after resolving its legal dispute with a local developer.
Better Housing Coalition announced Thursday it has reached a settlement with Henrico-based Dominion Diversified Real Estate Group, which had alleged the nonprofit stole its idea to redevelop the former Quality Inn & Suites building at 3200 W. Broad St.
The settlement, terms of which were not disclosed, frees BHC to go forward with the project or pursue other options, such as a joint venture with a developer or selling the property, CEO Greta Harris said.
“Up until this point, there was uncertainty about which way we could go,” Harris said. “Now we have the freedom to make the most appropriate choices for how we can move forward.”
In October, BHC filed a $15 million lawsuit alleging Dominion Diversified was holding the project hostage by threatening to refile a separate lawsuit it previously had withdrawn. That suit, filed in late 2016, alleged BHC stole the developer’s concept for the property after it approached the nonprofit about collaborating on a project.
Harris said Thursday the dispute had been “amicably resolved” and all of the lawsuits would be dropped over the next week or two. She would not discuss terms of the settlement, which she said was reached less than a week ago.
Dominion Diversified principal and founder Spilman Short did not return a call seeking comment.
BHC was represented in its suit by Bill Baldwin of local firm Meyer Baldwin Long & Moore. Dominion Diversified was represented by Brad Marrs of the Marrs & Henry Law Firm.
With the legal dispute behind it, Harris said, BHC is weighing whether to go forward with its project as previously proposed, pursue a joint venture with a private commercial developer or sell the property, which it purchased for $5.9 million.
Recent changes to zoning in and around Scott’s Addition have increased the property’s value, which now stands at $8.88 million, according to the latest city assessment. Harris said proceeds from a sale could fund other BHC projects throughout the Richmond area.
BHC has proposed a $42 million mixed-income, mixed-use development that would hinge on a $7 million capital campaign. Harris said the legal dispute has slowed momentum to bridge that funding gap, which she described as typical with income-based developments to reduce debt and set lower rent rates.
Harris said publicity from the lawsuits has drawn interest from a dozen East Coast developers that approached BHC about either selling the property or going in on a joint venture. The latter would involve a developer or other partner funding the project’s commercial component, the scope of which Harris said has not been determined.
“We’ve had a couple of inquiries, so the next few weeks and months will be interesting as we do the appropriate evaluation,” she said.
As far as a potential sale, Harris said BHC has been in talks with multiple commercial real estate brokerages about marketing the property. Colliers International previously had been retained to market the project for potential commercial tenants.
Harris said a decision on how to proceed could be made by spring.
“What we don’t have is another year to look at putting different things in place,” she said. “We want to try to definitively figure out which way we’re going in a relatively short period of time.”