VCU grabs gas station site for $3.8M

The vacant lot near the recently opened ICA sold for $3.8 million. (Mike Platania)

A year after a local convenience store and bowling alley magnate threatened to build an 18-story building to tower over VCU’s new Institute for Contemporary Art, the school’s real estate arm has dropped nearly $4 million to secure the site.

The VCU Real Estate Foundation last week purchased the former Sunoco station at 600 and 606 W. Grace St. from Steve Uphoff for $3.78 million.

University spokesman Mike Porter confirmed the deal.

“VCU Real Estate Foundation, a separate, private entity, bought the property as a part of its mission to identify, acquire, develop, and manage strategic real estate assets for the exclusive benefit of VCU,” Porter said in an email. “The Real Estate Foundation has been interested in this property for a long time. The opportunity arose and it acted accordingly.”

Porter added that the foundation will work with the university as it undertakes the master planning process to determine the ultimate use for the property.

The parcels, which total nearly half an acre, were most recently assessed at a combined $765,000.

VCU owns much of the surrounding real estate and has spent millions to secure all the land adjacent to the ICA. The Uphoff site was the lone holdout.

Last June, Uphoff upped the ante when he announced plans to build a 209,000-square-foot tower that would house 129 apartments, a pharmacy, and a location for his bowling chain, Uptown Alley.

In February this year, he reasserted his plans to go forward with the tower, adding that VCU had continued to show interest.

The deal for the former Sunoco site marks the largest sum VCU or its real estate foundation have paid in recent years to fortify its holdings around the ICA.

The university paid $2.2 million for the neighboring three-story, 1920s-era apartment building at 616 W. Grace St. in 2014. In March 2015 it paid $3.2 million for the former Hess gas station across Belvidere at 535 W. Broad St. It also paid $2 million for the former Evergreen Chinese Restaurant at 612 Grace St. in September 2016.

A block over, VCU recently announced plans to raze the former New York Fried Chicken & Biscuit restaurant at 501 W. Broad St., where it is mulling a 13-story building. It paid $2.8 million for that property.

Further down Broad, the school dropped $3.5 million in February for the former Mansion 534 nightclub building at 534 N. Harrison St.

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7 Comments on "VCU grabs gas station site for $3.8M"

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Deon Hamner

Just snatching up property left and right like Mr. Monopoly

Steven Gooch

And another piece of prime property leaves the tax rolls. That much more for the rest of us to pay.

Matt Faris

That ends up being approximately 17 cents per person living in the city of Richmond.

I’d guess that the taxes generated from the design and construction of new buildings would be far greater.

Mike Brown

And what taxes would those be?

Matt Faris

Business licenses, materials, fuel, income of the architects, engineers and contractors…..

John Bulger

You are also assuming all the people living in Richmond are Richmond tax payers…which they are not.

Matt Faris

John, that wasn’t the intent. I said “per person” for that reason. If one in ten paid taxes, it’s $1.70. The point was the taxes lost will be easily recovered. I do realize the tax base declines as VCU eats up property, but I suspect the actual losses are less, as other money is invested as the university grows.