Site work is underway for what effectively will be the newest — and perhaps flashiest — billboard along Interstate 195.
Crews have started work on the “car vending machine” tower that online auto seller Carvana is erecting at 2201 Westwood Ave. The 1.6-acre site is at Westwood and Hamilton Street, across the expressway from TopGolf.
The $4 million facility is replacing the former ERNI Electronics building, which was demolished last year. The electronics manufacturer, which had based its U.S. sales headquarters there since 2008, has relocated to a new office near Brandermill.
In the building’s place will rise a multistory tower and adjoining customer center, where car buyers will be able to retrieve their online purchases from a 12-tier, window-paneled structure.
Purchases are lowered to customers from the automated tower, which also serves as a vehicle display and will be visible from the expressway.
It isn’t clear when the car tower is scheduled to open. Carvana did not respond to questions from BizSense Tuesday.
The structure will be Carvana’s first in Virginia, and its first physical storefront in the Richmond market.
It had previously proposed a similar facility on land along Interstate 64 near Short Pump, within a mile of Richmond-based competitor CarMax’s original location. It withdrew that proposal after failing to find agreement with neighboring property owners, who had a say in the land’s use.
Carvana currently distributes vehicles from an undisclosed location in Petersburg. It had been planning a $25 million, 200,000-square-foot vehicle inspection and processing center in Chester but scrapped that project last summer.
The company purchased the Westwood site last year for $1.75 million. A building permit filed with the city says the center will include delivery bays, wash bays and an office area.
Colorado-based Catamount Constructors is the contractor on the project, and North Carolina-based WHN Architects is the designer. S.B. Cox handled the demolition.
Carvana has built two dozen of its signature car vending machines across the country, including three in North Carolina and one in Maryland. This week, the company secured approval for a new tower in Denver, as BizSense sister site BusinessDen reports.