The winning bidder has been chosen in the RFP process aimed at guiding the future of a vacant old bank branch in the Highland Park neighborhood.
Southside-based nonprofit HandUp Community Resource Center was selected in recent weeks to convert the former Bank of America branch at 1307 E. Brookland Park Blvd. into a community pharmacy.
Dubbed the Six Points Health Hub, the center would offer primary and preventative care in addition to being a retail pharmacy.
HandUp made the winning pitch in an RFP led by the Richmond Land Bank, a program administered by the nonprofit Maggie Walker Community Land Trust.
The land bank has owned the 4,800-square-foot building since 2019, receiving it through a donation from BofA. The banking giant had shuttered the branch in 2017.
Viewing the building as an anchor of the Six Points section of the neighborhood, the land bank set out to accept bids for redevelopment of the property and gauge the community on what was most needed. Suggestions included a grocery store or farmer’s market, a restaurant, coffee shop, cafe or bakery, a community center, or a doctor’s office.
The group then issued an RFP in June, to which two proposals were selected as finalists. HandUp bested Bantu Global Commodities’ pitch to convert the building into a restaurant and community market concept.
The endeavor would add to HandUp’s existing operations, including a food pantry off Midlothian Turnpike, veterans assistance and housing programs.
Augusta Hite, head of HandUp, could not be reached for comment by press time.
Julia MacNelly, program director for the land bank and MWCLT, said the groups are now in negotiations with HandUp to take over the property and begin its renovations.
HandUp will lease the property to start, rather than purchase it right away as the land bank had initially requested as part of the RFP.
MacNelly said the lease would run 1-3 years as the Health Hub gets established, with an option for HandUp to purchase the building along the way.
MacNelly said the lease would allow HandUp flexibility as it tests out a new business model for the center.
“It’s a nonprofit pharmacy model so that folks will be able to access prescriptions regardless of their ability to pay. The lease was a way for them to get their footing with that new model,” MacNelly said.
“Our end goal is that we want the winning applicant to succeed. It’s important to have a good vision but to have staying power,” MacNelly added. “We wanted to steward this process to something that would become a neighborhood anchor that stayed for a long time.”
A start date for renovations is still up in the air, but MacNelly said the hope is for the hub to open potentially by the middle of next year.
The bank building is the first commercial property the land bank has dealt with since its creation in 2018. It’s also the first time it received a property through direct donation. Most of the properties it deals with are vacant and abandoned and come from the city through tax delinquency-related foreclosures.
MacNelly said the group hopes to continue to explore the idea of making commercial properties part of its efforts.