The local developer behind a planned conversion of a former Masonic lodge building in Jackson Ward is extending her efforts to other properties next door.
Lizzie Drucker-Basch, who is leading the redevelopment of the three-story, 15,000-square-foot building at 10 W. Leigh St. into 14 one-bedroom apartments, has purchased three adjacent properties with plans to likewise revitalize them.
Around the start of the year, Drucker-Basch purchased two adjacent storefronts on the east side of the building, at 12-14 and 14½ W. Leigh St., for $370,000 and $155,100, respectively. The buildings most recently were assessed at $205,000 and $69,000, according to city property records.
A third property at 604 St. James St. was purchased in late January for $74,800. A city assessment valued the 0.02-acre parcel, which includes a century-old boarded-up structure, at $58,000.
Drucker-Basch said she plans to convert the two adjoining buildings to duplexes. One of them, 14½ W. Leigh, was once the law office of the late James E. Sheffield, the first black judge appointed in Virginia since Reconstruction.
That building was purchased at auction in a tax sale, as was 604 St. James St., Drucker-Basch said. 12-14 W. Leigh was purchased from Richmond-based Housing Preservation and Development Corp., which Drucker-Basch said she approached about selling.
She said a motivation for purchasing the two Leigh Street properties was to add parking for the apartment project next door at 10 W. Leigh St.
She purchased that building, which once served as a Masonic lodge, in late 2016 for $505,000. She expects to invest as much as $1.5 million into the apartments conversion, which is kicking into gear after recently securing a special-use permit.
The same builder and architect involved in that project, Richmond-based Corinthian Construction and Bruce Shirley of Ratio PC, also will handle the adjacent properties, she said.
Drucker-Basch expects the small parcel at 604 St. James St. to be developed as a single-family residence. She said they’re finding out whether the boarded-up building there is structurally sound and able to be preserved.
The acquisitions give her a larger foothold on that corner of the block at West Leigh and St. James streets. Her holdings do not include an adjacent law firm office on the west side of the larger building.
New 7-foot-tall windows are being installed, and work thus far has included asbestos abatement and some interior demolition. The project involves state and federal historic preservation tax credits, which she plans to use on the three smaller projects.
“We’re right where we should be on our timeline,” she said, adding that she’s aiming to finish the apartments by yearend.
Drucker-Basch took a detour from the project last year, making an unsuccessful bid for the Democratic nomination for the District 56 seat in the Virginia House of Delegates.
With that run behind her, she said she’s looking forward to contributing to a revitalization of Jackson Ward’s Leigh Street corridor, noting the city’s plans to renovate the nearby Abner Clay Park. Across the street, the Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia opened in the renovated Leigh Street Armory building two years ago.
“I continue to be really excited about Jackson Ward,” she said. “Stuff is happening down there that is exciting, and I’m hopeful by all of the new restaurants coming down and the mayor’s plans for the Coliseum and the convention center. I’m heavily invested in that area.”