A development team’s acquisition of an old electricity substation in Carver could inject a different form of energy into the Richmond neighborhood.
The decommissioned property at Clay and Harrison streets was recently purchased by an entity tied to developers Michael Hallmark and Susan Eastridge, who are planning to redevelop the century-old building and adjoining yard with a mix of retail, office and food-and-beverage uses.
Hallmark, who with Eastridge is also behind the $2.3 billion GreenCity project in Henrico, as well as a $325 million tower planned downtown, described the concept as a sort of community hub for Carver to serve as a gathering space for the largely residential neighborhood next to VCU.
While specific plans remain in the works, the development, called Clay Street Station, would preserve the existing industrial building and incorporate repurposed maritime shipping containers that would be stacked and house retail users and so-called “micro-offices.” The project could also involve a food hall-style mix of restaurant and other food-and-beverage tenants.
Sean Duncan, Hallmark’s collaborator and business partner in their downtown-based Future Cities design firm, said the idea is for the site to be a central convergence spot for the Carver neighborhood.
“Our goal is to create a ‘community living room’ for Carver and provide opportunities for small business startups to get a boost from being in an innovative and synergetic setting,” said Duncan, who’s also part of the GreenCity and downtown tower design team.
The project also is planned to involve features such as rooftop solar and rainwater harvesting for reuse on site, on top of the repurposed shipping containers.
The group’s Clay Street Station LLC closed on the property late Friday, paying $1.6 million, Hallmark said. The transaction had not been reflected on online property records as of Monday.
The city most recently assessed the 0.4-acre property at $323,000.
The seller was Virginia Electric & Power Co., better known as Dominion Energy, which decommissioned the substation a few years ago after building a new one at Harrison and Moore streets, a couple blocks away. The new facility is adjacent to the interstate near the Belvidere Street interchange.
Dominion had listed the property for sale in February, with CBRE’s Andrew Ferguson, Jason Hetherington and Chris Wallace handling the listing. Hallmark said the property had been on his team’s radar for some time.
Hallmark said the property did not come to their attention through their work on Navy Hill, the former Coliseum-centered redevelopment proposal that was led by Tom Farrell, the late Dominion CEO. Hallmark, Duncan and Eastridge, of Fairfax-based firm Concord Eastridge, helped design and structure the Navy Hill plan.
Hallmark said Dominion had continued using the Carver property for storage and other uses in recent years.
Built in the early 20th century, the two-story brick building features a mezzanine area and an overhead crane system that remains operational. The crane is repositioned via steel beams on wheels, and the setup includes a pulley with a large steel hook. Hallmark said the crane was used to maneuver large generators and is capable of lifting 30,000 pounds under one person’s operation.
Hallmark said the crane would be preserved as part of the building’s aesthetics. He said he’s looking to consult with the crane’s manufacturer, labeled on a beam as Whiting Foundry Equipment Co. (now Whiting Corp.), on how best to clean and maintain the equipment.
“The fun part for us is this is so unusual,” Hallmark said of the property. “We’re trying to find all the right vendors to clean the machinery.”
Bricked-in windows on the building’s ground floor would be reopened, and skylights would be placed back on the roof, Hallmark said.
Hallmark said a development cost would depend on final designs, and he said conceptual renderings could be revealed in September.
He said they’re also determining what permit and zoning approvals may be needed for the project, working with Roth Jackson attorneys Mark Kronenthal and Jennifer Mullen on that process.
Hallmark said he’s presented the general concept for the project to neighborhood groups and has received positive feedback. He and Duncan said final designs would be determined based on input from the Carver Area Civic Improvement League and other groups.
“The few folks we’ve spoken to have been very positive about it,” Hallmark said.
Jerome Legions, president of the Carver Civic Association, said he’s seen Hallmark’s initial concepts for the property and is excited about the possibilities. He said discussions on what to do with the property had been underway for several years as Dominion prepared to decommission and unload it.
Legions said Hallmark, who resides in the area, has offered ideas for other potential projects in Carver, as well.
“It’s great when you have a neighbor that is a developer that actually understands what’s good for the neighborhood and not (just) what’s good for their bottom line,” Legions said of Hallmark. “He does both, but he really has been a great developer as far as the neighborhood is concerned, coming up with new projects that’s going to move our neighborhood to a new level.”
The plans for the project come as site work has started on another development project in Carver’s northwest corner. Demolition is underway on Stanley Martin Homes’ 90-unit Carver Square condos at Moore and Lombardy streets. Parts of an old industrial building there had begun to be razed late last week.
Nearby, at Lombardy and Broad streets, construction continues on a 12-story apartment tower by Minnesota-based The Opus Group.
Meanwhile, Dominion is looking to unload other properties from its real estate holdings. In June, the company listed for sale a nearly 5-acre property at 2400 and 2501 Grayland Ave., just south of the Fan.