If all goes as planned, VCU will soon be ready to further transform the area around the intersection of West Broad and North Belvidere streets with $225 million worth of new development.
The university hopes to break ground next year on its new 196,000-square-foot Arts and Innovation Academic Building to be built across the street from the Institute of Contemporary Art, as well as a new data center on a nearby parking lot at 707 W. Broad St.
The Arts and Innovation building is expected to cost $181 million, of which $163 million would be state funds. The building will be built on a little under an acre of land owned by VCU’s real estate foundation. The property is divided across two parcels — a long-vacant fast food spot at 501 W. Broad St. and a now-demolished gas station at 535 W. Broad St.
The university has requested funding for the project to be included in the state budget. Members of the House of Delegates appropriation committee visited the project site earlier this month.
VCU’s contribution toward the building is expected to be covered by a fundraising drive that hasn’t started yet.
The facility will be home to VCU’s performing arts programs and have exhibition, lab and incubator space. The idea is to consolidate programming to encourage students in interdisciplinary ventures that range across the fields of arts, engineering, business and medicine.
“Geography and quality of research, laboratory and classroom space are some of the greatest challenges for VCU arts, with 17 departments and programs spread across 20 campus buildings. A new facility will consolidate many of these,” VCU spokesman Mike Porter said in an email.
The project is in its design phase, though the university hopes to break ground on the project around this time next year, pending state funding support, VCU Facilities Management Associate Vice President Richard Sliwoski said in an interview earlier this month.
The project’s architect is William Rawn Associates. A general contractor hadn’t been selected as of about two weeks ago.
The Arts and Innovation Building is part of the six-year capital plan VCU approved earlier this year.
A more recent addition to the capital plan is the proposed $44 million data center at 707 W. Broad St.
The six-story, 30,000-square-foot building would house the VCU Technology Operations Center and would rise on a parking lot at 707 W. Broad St., which is owned by the VCU Real Estate Foundation.
The university plans to provide $22.6 million for the data center and has requested $21 million in state funding be allocated toward the project. VCU plans to issue university bonds to make up its contribution.
The building wouldn’t feature any ground-floor commercial space.
The plan is to break ground on the data center next spring, with a project completion target of December 2023, Sliwoski said.
“Hopefully, by May or June of next year we should be breaking ground,” he said.
The project’s architect is PSH+. A general contractor hadn’t been selected when Sliwoski was interviewed.
The project is prompted by the state’s plans to build a new Virginia Supreme Court Building on the site of the Pocahontas Building at 900 E. Main St., which has housed VCU’s data center since the 1990s.
VCU also plans to relocate employees at its Facilities and Financial Services Building at 700 W. Grace St. into the new data center building. The Facilities and Financial Services Building will potentially come down to make way for new student housing.
“We’re looking at this as an opportunity to consolidate our facilities folks as well, who are in the facilities building on the corner of Pine and Grace that will eventually be coming down for a new honors facility,” VCU Vice President for Administration Meredith Weiss said.
That being said, the university is still weighing whether to go through with plans for a new honors dorm on Grace Street, which is included in its six-year capital plan. How those plans ultimately shake out would affect the fate of the facilities building.
“This spring we’re going to do a new demand study and just make sure that project still makes sense in the post-COVID world. We think that it does, but we want to make sure we have updated information,” she said.
Weiss didn’t say specifically what has led to the rethinking of the dorm.
The data center site is next door to the VCU Technology Administration Building, which itself is another hub of the VCU data network. The university expects it’ll be able to minimize the amount of fiber and cable rerouting given the proximity.