After lying dormant for a year and selling last month for $7 million, one of the largest industrial complexes south of the James River is firing back to life with a new manufacturer set to fill its belly.
Pennsylvania-based industrial company Kinsley announced this week plans to establish a steel fabrication plant in the former 27-acre Williams Bridge Co. complex at 700 E. Fourth St. and 1500 Goodes St. at the eastern edge of Manchester.
Plans call for the facility to employ about 70 people, including welders, machine operators, fitters, painters, project managers and truck drivers with a commercial driver’s license. A variety of openings for the Richmond facility have been posted to Kinsley’s website.
The Pennsylvania-based company purchased the complex Nov. 16 from members of the Frank Everett Williams Jr. family for $7.1 million.
The firm owns and operates three similar fabrication facilities throughout central Pennsylvania.
Company spokeswoman Taryn Kuhn said crews are currently onsite prepping and renovating the property with the installation of a beam line, fabrication equipment and other workstation setup, with the hope of kicking off operations in early 2019. The new facility will increase the firm’s overall steel production from 40,000 to 60,000 tons per year.
Kinsley plans to initially invest $12.5 million in the site. The firm also plans to remove the Williams Bridge Co. name from the roof and replace it with Kinsley’s logo.
Kuhn said the firm was drawn to the site because of its immediate access to rail and Interstate 95.
The operation will occupy about 200,000 square feet, including the highly visible 119,000-square-foot warehouse building that was constructed in 1918.
Through its Kinsley Construction Inc. business, the company operates several divisions that include steel fabrication and erection, industrial services and site work.
The company’s Richmond site will serve as a primary steel fabricator as it expands its foothold throughout Virginia and the Carolinas.
Kinsley’s expansion into the city adds to the nearly 100-year-old history of one of the largest industrial sites there.
The location has played host to several industries through the years, including the Richmond Department of Public Works’ maintenance shop, a naval training school for diesel engine maintenance during World War II, and Bristol Steel & Iron Works in the mid-1960s.
Bristol Steel sold the site in 1987 to the family of the Williams Bridge Co.
Prior to closing down about a year ago, Williams Bridge Co. used the large manufacturing and assembly buildings for the preparation and shipping of major bridge components via the adjacent rail network on the site.
The property had been placed under contract this year by another buyer who had sought to rezone it from heavy industrial to B-7 mixed-use, which encourages a broad range of uses, including residential, commercial and compatible industrial.
But the rezoning application was withdrawn in late September, and Kinsley entered into an agreement with the original contract holder to terminate its purchase contract, according to multiple sources familiar with the deal.
The arrangement cleared the way for Kinsley to purchase the site, according to the sources, who did not want to speak about the deal on the record.
Several nearby industrial users are glad to see the large complex retaining its heavy manufacturing character.
Christopher Hildebrand owns and operates Tektonics Design Group, located roughly in the middle of the site at 702 E. Fourth St.
Founded in 2003, Tektonics has been designing, prototyping, manufacturing and fabricating a variety of products from its 20,000-square-foot warehouse since 2012. The company also completed a few manufacturing jobs for the Williams Bridge Co. when it was open.
Hildebrand said keeping the site industrial bodes well for the surrounding businesses and neighborhoods.
“It’s good to see another fabricator coming back, and that this site wasn’t repurposed for something that wouldn’t have been a good fit,” Hildebrand said. “We certainly look forward to welcoming our new neighbor, and seeing if we can work together on some things.”
Note: This story has been updated to include investment estimates received from Kinsley after publication. The company plans to initially invest $12.5 million in the site.