Food co-op out, developers in at Westover Hills site

The 2-acre site sold Aug. 27 for $1.4 million. (Mike Platania)

A group of developers has taken another bite out of Southside, this time with a deal that puts the fate of a planned food co-op in doubt.

Forest Hops LLC, an entity tied to Charles Bice and Cushman & Wakefield | Thalhimer’s Birck Turnbull, last month purchased the Family Dollar building at 1200-1209 Westover Hills Blvd. for $1.4 million.

The building was planned to be the home of the Richmond Food Co-op, which has been in fundraising mode since 2013. Calls and emails made to co-op leadership were not returned by press time.

Bice said they have no immediate plans for the building, which still is occupied by Family Dollar but is temporarily closed due to a rat infestation.

“It’s not going to be anything sexy in the immediate future,” Bice said. “Family Dollar has renewal rights on its lease for many years in the future.”

Divaris Real Estate’s John Madures and Eric Hammond represented the seller, and Turnbull represented Forest Hops in the deal.

While it is unclear what the future holds for the co-op, Bice said it will not be in the Family Dollar building.

Despite news reports about plans for the property, Co-op never had a letter of intent or lease on the building. (Mike Platania)

“There’s no future of the co-op at this location. I don’t know what it’s planning,” Bice said.

Co-op generated news, but no lease

Madures added that the co-op never had a letter of intent or lease on the building, which was previously a thrift store and Safeway. That’s despite numerous local news reports about the organization’s plans for the property.

Co-ops are grocery stores that are owned by its members, who take part in decision-making for the store as well as receive discounts and equity in profits. Nonmembers typically are welcome to shop at co-ops.

On its website, the Richmond Food Co-op said it must reach $800,000 in its capital campaign to move forward with the project, and that memberships cost $125 plus a $25 joining fee. Per an October WCVE report, the group had over 1,000 members signed up.

The co-op would be the only such concept in Richmond.

The nearly 2-acre plot is just around the corner from 4910-30 Forest Hill Ave., where Bice and Turnbull are planning a mixed-use development with up to 38 apartments and 12,000 square feet of commercial space to be anchored by a satellite taproom from The Veil Brewing Co.

Bice said they’ll likely wait and see the Forest Hill Avenue development through before considering anything for the Westover Hills property.

“It was just in such close proximity to the other development, we felt it’d be a good property to own,” Bice said. “In the worst case, Family Dollar is a reliable corporate tenant, which is not a bad consolation.”

Bice’s group purchased the building from D.C.-based investor Joginder Jassal. The property most recently was assessed at $1.4 million.

Meanwhile, at the Forest Hill Avenue development, Bice said talks are continuing with other commercial tenants to join The Veil.

“We’re very bullish on that part of town. We think it’s going to change the whole character of that intersection,” Bice said.

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9 Comments on "Food co-op out, developers in at Westover Hills site"

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Patrick Farley

Mike – contrary to your photo caption above, the RFC DID actually have a lease on the unoccupied portion of this building (~5000 SF) with ready-to-build-out plans in place — and Mr. Jassal could easily have affirmed this fact.

Michael Dodson

Per the follow up. They cancelled their lease in 2017 and converted back to a LoI. Apprently they never raised the funds for the construction loan. The space had no lease when the building was sold.

Patrick Farley

I’m quite aware of the history. The key word that elicited my comment was “never”.

Cindi Mashburn

Please clean up the building and lot and keep the premises clean.

charles Frankenhoff

the food coop is quite clearly never ever happening.

Dominic Barrett

How much effort was put into reaching out to the co-op about this? They did in fact have a lease with the previous owner. How long will it take for a correction/retraction to be made?

Michael Dodson

Co-op’s webpage has not changed in over a year; the calendar on the site lists “Jess’s Wedding” in Maryland this past June and the last hard hat tour was a November 2017. Their Facebook page alludes to needing people to join as members and talks about their February 2018 annual meeting and says ” it’s now or never to make this happen…” so I am assuming the co-op idea is dead.

Dominic Barrett
Whether or not “the co-op idea is dead” is a separate question altogether. And glancing at a website and coming to your own conclusions is fine for Joe Citizen/Michael Dodson…though Im not sure how one could determine whether a lease had been signed or not from a glance at a website. But I think a journalist has a responsibility to do more than take the developers word for it. And Im just wondering how much work was done to get more for this story than the developers elevator pitch on his new project. As an early member of the co-op,… Read more »
Michael Dodson
Don’t disagree with you as articles this site tend to be more press releases stories (like a lot of business news now) and not in depth. However leases are legal documents and if they had a valid, operating lease it would be legally enforceable after the sale. Unless it was cancelled as they did not meet the terms of the lease. And I did more than read the article here or their website. The Co-op has posted no news, no replies, and a check of various permit systems show it never submitted plans or even a certificate of zoning confirmation.… Read more »