Note: This story has been updated with comments received from Stone Brewing after publication.
The Intermediate Terminal building apparently isn’t in such bad shape after all, according to a structural assessment the city commissioned last month.
The Richmond Economic Development Authority on Thursday presented findings of a structural engineering report it received last week that indicates the building at 3101 E. Main St. appears to be in better condition than initially thought.
The 100-year-old building had been slated to be converted into a bistro by Stone Brewing Co. as part of the 2014 deal with the city that brought the San Diego-based brewery to Richmond.
Those plans got derailed in 2018, when Stone and city officials said the building was structurally insufficient to be converted into a bistro. The two parties had sought City Council’s permission to demolish the building, but halted those efforts later that year.
The report, from local engineering firm Dunbar Milby Williams Pittman & Vaughan, states that the floors of the building appear to be “more than capable of supporting gravity loads for a number of possible future uses, including a restaurant,” and that it should be structurally adequate to resist the effects of a 100-year flood event. The EDA, which owns the building, hired the firm in January to determine what type of commercial operation it could handle.
The firm said its biggest concern for a future use of the building relates to the soil below the structure’s footings. Froehling & Robertson, another area engineering firm, also reported that reinforcing steel is present in at least some of the footings.
“That was a change from what we’d known before about the building,” EDA Chairman John Molster said regarding the footings.
“I think the range of uses for the building are quite wide, quite good and much better than what we thought,” Molster said.
Leonard Sledge, the city’s economic development director, said his department will be passing the report on to Stone.
“They’re the ones who are tasked with moving forward with the Terminal building. In terms of the findings … there are a number of options to make the building usable with some improvements,” Sledge said.
Stone has been mum about its revised plans for a Richmond bistro, for which it was set to receive $8 million in bonds fronted by the city. But Dominic Engels, Stone’s CEO, said last fall they’re still in the design process and are committed to bringing the concept to Richmond.
In attendance at Thursday’s EDA meeting was Jerry Cable, owner of The Tobacco Co. Restaurant and several other Shockoe Slip properties. In 2018, Cable offered the city $1.5 million to purchase the Intermediate Terminal building, but was rejected, according to a Times-Dispatch report.
Sledge said after the meeting that he has not had any conversations with Cable about the building.
On Friday, Stone co-founder Greg Koch said in a statement that the company had just received the report and was still processing it.
“…Admittedly, it’s quite frustrating to receive a third party detailed engineering report several years ago telling us that the building was non-structurally viable, after we’d invested more than a half million dollars into plans and designs. And now, we were just given another report to us today, saying the opposite,” Koch said.
“Honestly, we are trying to absorb this new info and still aren’t sure what the heck to think.”
Koch went on to say that the company never sought to demolish the building, and that such a decision is not Stone’s call to make since it doesn’t own the structure.
“…we simply went along with a plan that called for demolition as we were under the justifiable impression from experts at the time that there was no other route,” Koch said.
Correction: Stone Brewing has yet to receive the $8 million in bond funding for the bistro. An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported that it had. The city, in its agreement with Stone, has offered to front the bonds to fund the bistro’s construction.