Jefferson Hotel owner revives plan to demolish neighboring church building

The century-old Second Baptist Church building at Franklin and Adams streets. The Jefferson Hotel owns the building and has been using it for storage. (Photos by Mike Platania)

Thirty years after it first sought to do so, the owner of The Jefferson Hotel is looking to tear down the building’s historic next-door neighbor.

Historic Hotels of Richmond, tied to Bill Goodwin’s CCA Industries, filed permit applications with the city in September to demolish the century-old Second Baptist Church building at 13 W. Franklin St., just east of the five-star hotel.

The applications seek to take down the existing structure, backfill the basement and landscape the property, which Historic Hotels bought as part of an assemblage when it purchased The Jefferson in 1991.

The following year, the hotel sought to demolish the church building, citing structural deterioration and a need for more parking, as well as concerns that the building was attracting vagrants. Preservationists at the time successfully fought to save the building, which the hotel fenced off and has been using for storage.

The demolition applications filed in late September do not specify what would be done with the quarter-acre property beyond filling the basement and landscaping over the site. Requests for comment from the hotel and CCA were not returned. The city’s online permit portal shows three applications received, with one listed as denied, another voided and a third “on hold/awaiting more info.”

That application puts the project cost at $350,000. Draper Aden Associates is listed as the engineer for the work.

The proposed demolition has already caught the eye of nearby nonprofit Historic Richmond, which was involved in fighting to save the building the first go-round.

According to a flyer it has put out about the plan, the nonprofit interprets the application as meaning that the land could end up being used for parking.

The flyer states that the nonprofit reached out to the hotel and was told that the demolition was sought due to structural issues with the building and “an inability to find an economically viable use.”

The flyer says past proposals to adaptively reuse the building have included a fitness center, pool, offices and housing. It adds that similar structures have been adapted for retail use, restaurants and food halls.

“With or without the financial assistance of tax credits, we can see Second Baptist’s refreshed exterior housing any number of amenities to burnish the hotel’s five stars and to enhance the visitor experience to Richmond,” the flyer states, encouraging readers to voice concerns to the mayor, the City Council and Richmond planning staff.

Cyane Crump, Historic Richmond’s executive director, said she hopes an arrangement can be reached to preserve the building.

“We think it’s a beautiful historic structure,” Crump said Friday. “We would love to see it saved somehow.”

The sanctuary building with columned portico is next door to The Jefferson, where work involving scaffolding on its two towers has been ongoing.

The sanctuary building, built in 1906, was designed by William Noland of Noland and Baskervill, a predecessor of the present-day Baskervill architecture firm.

Featuring a prominent columned portico, the neoclassic building’s design was based on the same Roman temple that Thomas Jefferson modeled the Virginia State Capitol building after.

The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as part of the Grace Street Commercial Historic District. It’s also part of Richmond’s West Franklin Street Old and Historic District, a city designation that requires approval of building modifications by the Commission of Architectural Review (CAR).

Crump said she was unsure how the permit review process would play out. Kevin Vonck, the city’s planning director, confirmed Friday that the remaining permit application is currently on hold, which he said is due to the Old and Historic District designation.

Vonck said the designation requires a certificate of appropriateness from CAR for the application to proceed. He said it’s up to the applicant to pursue that route.

“The ball is in their court,” Vonck said.

Crump said the building’s architectural significance warrants such review.

“If the owners intend to proceed, we’d like to see it go through the Commission of Architectural Review process, because of its architectural merit and the fact that it’s in a city Old and Historic District,” Crump said.

“We don’t really know much at this point. We look forward to learning more, and if we can help be part of a solution that saves it, we’re interested in exploring that.”

Totaling 8,500 square feet, the building and its quarter-acre parcel were most recently assessed by the city at $926,000. Historic Hotels owns four adjoining parcels that it uses as parking lots. Two other parcels on the block are owned by YMCA of Greater Richmond, which uses them as a parking lot for its Downtown YMCA branch across Franklin.

The applications come as work to The Jefferson’s exterior continues. Scaffolding on the hotel building’s two Tuscan-style towers have been in place for over a year, though it’s not clear what work is being done. A hotel spokeswoman declined to discuss the work in detail when asked about it earlier.

City permits approved in 2019 describe removal of existing roofing and replacement with membrane roofing, and repair and replacement of decorative terra cotta elements including balusters. A demolition permit also was approved for preparation for a restaurant upgrade.

In 2017, the hotel wrapped up a four-year, three-phase renovation that expanded rooms and reduced its total room count. The century-old rotunda ceiling was restored, and new furnishings were placed in the rotunda and palm court lobbies and in the Lemaire restaurant, among other improvements.

• BizSense reporter Mike Platania contributed to this report.

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karl hott
karl hott
27 days ago

Having already closed off a block of public street for the Jefferson, the city of Richmond needs to stand firm that this lovely historic building will not be torn down. Ironic that parties sought to tear down the Jefferson in the 80s. Small minds need guidance.

Jim Jones
Jim Jones
27 days ago
Reply to  karl hott

What would be a good use for it?

Fred squire
Fred squire
27 days ago
Reply to  karl hott

So keeping a building for storage is a good use? Would it be better suited to use the land to enhance the hotel to provide a better attraction for the city and its residents? I send families to the Jefferson multiple times a year for various reasons, meals, stays etc. I’ve never suggested anyone travel from out of town to see the old church/storage building Curious how it is small mind thinking? I see small mind thinking as leaving an older vacant building be, just because it is old even though it’s of no use Kinda like attics and storage… Read more »

Last edited 27 days ago by Fred squire
Michelle Reynolds
Michelle Reynolds
27 days ago
Reply to  Fred squire

So if this building were instead a Food Hall you wouldn’t consider that a better attraction for residents and visitors? If the owners of the Jefferson don’t have the will and creativity to put this building to better use than a storage facility then let them sell it and move on… but demolishing is out of the question…

Garland Pollard
Garland Pollard
27 days ago
Reply to  karl hott

Agree..they were given the public street as a concession for not tearing it down. Good point Karl

Justin W Ranson
Justin W Ranson
27 days ago
Reply to  karl hott

At he risk of a multitude of downvotes (tragic, I know), just because a building has columns doesn’t mean it’s historic. What about it is historic? Just being on the Historic Register isn’t enough. It’s a pretty storage building. But that’s all it is.

Justin W Ranson
Justin W Ranson
26 days ago

Got it. No constructive responses, just downvotes. As I expected. It’s a pretty building. Got nice shiny columns. But it’s not historic. Nothing of consequence happened in it. It’s not an original design. It’s not the ony surviving example from a well-known architect. It’s a pretty storage closet. I’m open to being wrong, but that’s all your silent downvotes are telling me. Stay real, BizSense.

Matt Faris
Matt Faris
25 days ago

I think you’re looking at the result of up and down votes. That doesn’t mean no one agrees.

Justin W Ranson
Justin W Ranson
25 days ago
Reply to  Matt Faris

I was mostly looking for someone -Anyone- To tell me why it’s an historic building worthy of saving. I couldn’t find a reason in my own search, but thought maybe someone else could.

Ryan Herndon
Ryan Herndon
25 days ago

They obviously thought it is worth saving. Part of the charm of Richmond is using old building not tearing them down for a parking lot. The Jefferson can sell it if they want.

The National Register of Historic Places is the official list of the Nation’s historic places worthy of preservation. Authorized by the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, the National Park Service’s National Register of Historic Places is part of a national program to coordinate and support public and private efforts to identify, evaluate, and protect America’s historic and archeological resources.

Matt Faris
Matt Faris
25 days ago

I’ve had the same question. I note in the article about the Grace Street Commercial Historic District there is no mention of churches in general much less this one in particular (though the nominating form does indeed mention churches)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grace_Street_Commercial_Historic_District

Gregg Johnson
Gregg Johnson
24 days ago

If only there were other examples in Richmond of formerly vacant buildings that weren’t torn down and instead got second lives as stores, restaurants, apartments, hotels, galleries, coffee shops and coworking spaces.

Just because a building isn’t “historic” doesn’t mean it doesn’t add something to the urban landscape. I never met anyone who decided to visit a city because of the abundance of surface parking. The building should be saved a reused.

Justin W Ranson
Justin W Ranson
23 days ago
Reply to  Gregg Johnson

That’s all fine, but who is anyone else to tell the property owner they MUST keep the building as is? If it’s not historic, then why should they not be able to do what they want with it up to and including its removal? That’s my whole point. Yes, it’s a cool building. Sure, it would be nice if it remained. But if it’s not historic, why should the property owner be forced to keep it around if they have other plans for the space? That’s awfully authoritarian, and counter to everything our country was built on.

Gregg Johnson
Gregg Johnson
22 days ago

It appears they were given private use of a public street in exchange for not tearing it down. Why should that deal suddenly be null and void because they’re tired of maintaining it?

Oscar Beisert
Oscar Beisert
16 days ago

“it’s not historic” is misinformation, please stop spreading things that are not true. It is listed on the historic register, which in Richmond means it’s legally listed as historic. The register’s criteria includes architectural merit-including both architect and architectural style. This applies to buildings constructed 100 years ago, as much as it does to buildings constructed 300 years ago. Whether you personally agree or disagree with the criteria is like your opinion: moot, unless you can successfully change the criteria to only include structures where important historic events took place. That would also include a caveat that you personally be… Read more »

Lee Thomas
Lee Thomas
18 days ago

Okay, I’ll bite: The building clearly incorporates materials and craftsmanship that are now very rare and expensive or impossible to replace. At minimum the facade should be preserved, even if relocated. As I recall, the area has TONS of parking on what were obviously the sites of former row homes and businesses. The church and a few surviving rowhomes/small shops on Franklin serve as a good visual indicator of the type of neighborhood that used to be there, especially when contrasted with what is probably over an acre of surface parking. Finally, from an urban planning perspective, an economic perspective,… Read more »

Carl Schwendeman
Carl Schwendeman
27 days ago

They better let this building stand or Richmond’s Historical Resources preservation board has no credibility consdering how rare this type of building is.

Broaddus-Crutchfield Frances
Broaddus-Crutchfield Frances
27 days ago

Please save this beautiful, historic building.

Brian Glass
Brian Glass
27 days ago

I could think of several outdoor uses that the Jefferson could incorporate for their guests, excluding parking. One example would be pickleball courts, which don’t require much space, and could easily be enclosed and lighted.

Bruce Anderson
Bruce Anderson
27 days ago

Seems like a shame to tear down an attractive historic building for a parking lot.

Last edited 27 days ago by Bruce Anderson
David Johannas
David Johannas
27 days ago

This building had a sister which was similar in size and stature. The pair had a strong impact on the historic character of the Franklin St. If my memory serves me correctly, the Jefferson received approval to tear the sister building down and replace it with asphalt, in trade for keeping this building intact. This building is part of the historic fabric which makes Richmond a great city. Surely the Jefferson can come up with options for adaptive reuse. The idea that this would be left to demolition by neglect is not a reasonable approach. We already have flattened enough… Read more »

Josh McCullar, Architect
Josh McCullar, Architect
27 days ago

This is a significant temple-form work of architecture which contributes mightily to the lineage of this city’s built fabric. One of the more interesting uses for former church buildings in recent years has been adaptive reuse conversions to art galleries. My firm has been involved with such a project in another state recently, and in fact, this has been done all over the world. These spaces are often transformed into light filled timeless places for the viewing of sculpture and paintings, which to many, offer (fittingly) a sacred and very moving experience in what were former places of worship. There… Read more »

Marcus Omar Squires
Marcus Omar Squires
26 days ago

I hope others will advocate for this historic structure, Richmond really needs to look at preserving its historic past and stop ripping it down. If I was not mistaken there were plans to turn it into an event space at one point for the Jefferson. I hope others will help sponsor The Historic Richmond Foundation in their efforts to save this architectural treasure here in the Commonwealth. The building at Franklin and Adams was based on a second century Roman Temple, the Maison Carree, in Nimes, France.

Justin W Ranson
Justin W Ranson
25 days ago

I’m kind of disappointed that the comment section that was all for property owners rights not that long ago wants to strip a property owner of its rights now because the building is pretty.

Keith Van Inwegen
Keith Van Inwegen
24 days ago

This is not about stripping an owner of their rights. The property sits in an old and historic district and alterations including demolition need to follow the guidelines adopted by the city in 1999. Demolition is allowed if 1) There are no feasible alternatives to the proposed demolition. “Feasible alternatives” include an appropriate new use and rehabilitation, relocation of the structure to a compatible site or re-sale of the property to an individual committed to suitable rehabilitation or relocation. 2) A building or structure is deemed not to be a contributing part of the historic character of an Old and Historic… Read more »

Oscar Beisert
Oscar Beisert
16 days ago

I’m disappointed that the property owner is subsidized by tax credits and incentives to operate the hotel next door, when they should be operating on the model of laissez faire capitalism.

Brian Glass
Brian Glass
24 days ago

Michelle: The Jefferson isn’t going to sell a property that they own and is adjacent to the hotel. Please explain why you want to save a building that functionally obsolete, and is obviously decaying from the inside out.

Also keep in mind that the Owners of the Jefferson have constantly improved the Hotel, at their own expense. That’s why it’s a Five Diamond, Five Star hotel. The City of Richmond needs to take pride in that and work with the Owners.

Thomas E. Wynkoop,jr
Thomas E. Wynkoop,jr
11 days ago

$350,000 to demolish this Church? $350,000 out of pocket to have parking and Landscaping? Nonsense.The building could be purposed.This Church could be a Cash Cow! It is an asset to the adjoining Hotel Property as one of three elements of a Wedding Package. Church, Reception, Lodging. A draw for the Community in general. What an opportunity to cash in on the billion dollar Wedding Industry, a stand alone Industry in it’s own right that could be out sourced, or better, as an enhancement to the Jefferson Hotel Business. For a family of such wealth to destroy this beautiful structure takes… Read more »