New 100,000-square-foot building planned for biotech park

A rendering of the planned building. (City documents)

As discussions about the massive arena-anchored Navy Hill development heat up, the neighboring VA Bio+Tech Park has a big plan of its own in the works.

Activation Capital, a nonprofit affiliated with the 34-acre park, last month filed plans with the city to build a six-story, 100,000-square-foot research building at 706 E. Leigh St.

The building will occupy a roughly 2-acre block bounded by East Jackson, East Leigh, North Seventh and North Eighth Streets. Plans also show a 740-space parking deck.

Activation Capital, which supports the region’s entrepreneurial scene with funding, mentoring and other services, did not respond to requests for comment by press time.

It filed a plan of development with the city for the project on Aug. 16. The POD awaits city approval. The property is already zoned with the same designation as other properties in the park, meaning it likely won’t require a rezoning or special-use permit.

An abandoned building and surface parking lot currently sit on the property. (Mike Platania)

The land is currently home to two surface parking lots and an abandoned building that’s been adorned with murals. The VA Bio+Tech Park owns the land, which most recently was assessed at $277,000, per city property records.

SMBW Architects is listed as the architect of the project, and Draper Aden Associates and Dunlap & Partners are listed as engineers, according to plans on file.

The site is catty-corner from the dormant Richmond Coliseum and a part of Leigh Street that dips below street level. That section of Leigh initially was eyed for a regrade as part of the Navy Hill development, but those plans were scrapped due to potential funding not lining up with the proposed timing for Navy Hill.

The Bio+Tech Park is made up of about a dozen buildings across 34 acres downtown. Its tenants include Altria, various VCU- and VCU Health-affiliated organizations and dozens of startups, such as Meru BioTechnologies and GPB Scientific.

The park soon may have a new tenant move into one of its larger lab areas, as True Health Diagnostics, which took over the building 737 N. Fifth St. from the now-defunct Health Diagnostic Laboratory, is itself going through bankruptcy and looking to sell off its operations and assets.

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