VCU demolishes former Sally Bell’s ahead of new dorm construction

VCU demolished the vacant former location of Sally Bell’s Kitchen on Grace Street to make room for new student housing. Pictured is the property in mid-June. (Michael Schwartz photo)

A long-running local eatery’s former home on Grace Street has been torn down to make room for a new home for VCU students.

The vacant building at 708 W. Grace St. that used to house Sally Bell’s Kitchen was demolished in recent weeks. The property will be part of the site of a new VCU dorm, which is expected to start construction in a couple years.

The new dorm will be for the university’s honors students, who are currently housed in a 177-bed residence hall across the street. Though the new dorm’s size and number of beds hasn’t been determined, it’s expected to have a higher capacity than the existing honors dorm.

“The new Honors College housing facility is currently in the pre-design phase to evaluate scope and size of the project. Construction is expected to begin in 2024 and to be complete by fall 2026,” VCU Vice President for Administration Meredith Weiss said in an email. “It will replace existing Honors housing and provide significantly more beds.”

The vacant building at 708 W. Grace St. that was once home to Sally Bell’s Kitchen was built in phases between 1876 and 1950. Pictured is the property in late June. (Mike Platania photo)

Texas-based American Campus Communities is the developer VCU is working with on the public-private partnership project. The existing honors housing building will continue to serve as student housing once the new building is completed. Sally Bell’s is now at 2337 W. Broad St.

“The project will provide undergraduate housing for the Honors College as well as additional student housing to respond to increased demand for on-campus housing. It will also provide needed space for the Honors College program including office space, academic/teaching space, collaborative areas for group work and event space,” Weiss said.

VCU also worked with American Campus Communities on the nearby 12-story Gladding Residence Center construction project that was completed in 2018.

VCU also plans to tear down the next door Facilities and Financial Services Building at 700 W. Grace St. to free up that land for the new dorm. Demolition of that building is planned for November 2023.

A rendering of a new residential hall VCU plans to build on Grace Street. To the left is the existing honors dorm. (Image courtesy of VCU)

Meanwhile, on the next block, a restaurant chain is returning to Grace Street after a two-plus-year hiatus. Noodles and Co. is preparing to re-open at 814 W. Grace St. The Colorado-based chain had formerly operated there from 2013 until 2020.

A company spokesman said the plan was always for it to be “an extended yet temporary closure,” due to VCU students not being back in-person, but now that they’re back they hope to open back up in their old space in the next few months.

The Grace Street dorm project takes its initial steps forward as VCU also plans two other nearby capital projects: A $181 million Arts and Innovation Academic Building at the corner of Broad and Belvidere streets and a new IT center at 707 W. Broad St., which between construction and equipment is now estimated at $49.9 million.

Site work on the arts building is slated to start in September 2023, and construction on the IT center is expected to start in August and be completed by December 2023, Weiss said.

• BizSense reporter Mike Platania contributed to this report.

VCU demolished the vacant former location of Sally Bell’s Kitchen on Grace Street to make room for new student housing. Pictured is the property in mid-June. (Michael Schwartz photo)

A long-running local eatery’s former home on Grace Street has been torn down to make room for a new home for VCU students.

The vacant building at 708 W. Grace St. that used to house Sally Bell’s Kitchen was demolished in recent weeks. The property will be part of the site of a new VCU dorm, which is expected to start construction in a couple years.

The new dorm will be for the university’s honors students, who are currently housed in a 177-bed residence hall across the street. Though the new dorm’s size and number of beds hasn’t been determined, it’s expected to have a higher capacity than the existing honors dorm.

“The new Honors College housing facility is currently in the pre-design phase to evaluate scope and size of the project. Construction is expected to begin in 2024 and to be complete by fall 2026,” VCU Vice President for Administration Meredith Weiss said in an email. “It will replace existing Honors housing and provide significantly more beds.”

The vacant building at 708 W. Grace St. that was once home to Sally Bell’s Kitchen was built in phases between 1876 and 1950. Pictured is the property in late June. (Mike Platania photo)

Texas-based American Campus Communities is the developer VCU is working with on the public-private partnership project. The existing honors housing building will continue to serve as student housing once the new building is completed. Sally Bell’s is now at 2337 W. Broad St.

“The project will provide undergraduate housing for the Honors College as well as additional student housing to respond to increased demand for on-campus housing. It will also provide needed space for the Honors College program including office space, academic/teaching space, collaborative areas for group work and event space,” Weiss said.

VCU also worked with American Campus Communities on the nearby 12-story Gladding Residence Center construction project that was completed in 2018.

VCU also plans to tear down the next door Facilities and Financial Services Building at 700 W. Grace St. to free up that land for the new dorm. Demolition of that building is planned for November 2023.

A rendering of a new residential hall VCU plans to build on Grace Street. To the left is the existing honors dorm. (Image courtesy of VCU)

Meanwhile, on the next block, a restaurant chain is returning to Grace Street after a two-plus-year hiatus. Noodles and Co. is preparing to re-open at 814 W. Grace St. The Colorado-based chain had formerly operated there from 2013 until 2020.

A company spokesman said the plan was always for it to be “an extended yet temporary closure,” due to VCU students not being back in-person, but now that they’re back they hope to open back up in their old space in the next few months.

The Grace Street dorm project takes its initial steps forward as VCU also plans two other nearby capital projects: A $181 million Arts and Innovation Academic Building at the corner of Broad and Belvidere streets and a new IT center at 707 W. Broad St., which between construction and equipment is now estimated at $49.9 million.

Site work on the arts building is slated to start in September 2023, and construction on the IT center is expected to start in August and be completed by December 2023, Weiss said.

• BizSense reporter Mike Platania contributed to this report.

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Bruce Milam
Bruce Milam
1 month ago

Realtor Bill Mattox handled the sale of Sallie Belles for his friends the Jones family many years ago and helped them move to West Broad Street. The VCU plans for the site have been a long time coming. The continued expansion of the University (upward and outward) has been a blessing in the turnaround of Downtown.

Brian Glass
Brian Glass
1 month ago

Enrollment is down at VCU yet the university continues to build new dormitory facilities. Are they really warranted?

David Humphrey
David Humphrey
1 month ago
Reply to  Brian Glass

VCU has such a wide range of student types as most public universities in a large city do. I believe enrollment of commuter students has been mostly what is driving the drop. Additionally, the university can provide much more affordable housing than the private sector. This includes long term leases of private facilities so yes. It will also allow the conversion/renovation of more housing by the public that had been run down by student tenants over the years. Overall, VCU is a good value for the money degree so I expect enrollment will be just fine over time.

SA Chaplin
SA Chaplin
1 month ago
Reply to  David Humphrey

Additionally, the university can provide much more affordable housing than the private sector.”

Huh? So the government can do it better than the private sector?! Hmmmm. I wonder whether there is a name for this economic theory . . .

David Humphrey
David Humphrey
1 month ago
Reply to  SA Chaplin

I did not say government building public housing. I said the university providing student housing. Two totally different things. Since they have dining halls and such they don’t have to build kitchens and other costly parts of an apartment. They can also enter into long term leases (unlike transient individual students) that keep the costs lower over time by providing a stable long term tenant.

Ed Christina
Ed Christina
1 month ago
Reply to  SA Chaplin

SA Chaplin, dorms don’t need kitchens because students eat in dining halls, how can that be made political?

It can’t if you are posting in good faith.

Do better.

Daniel Cooper
Daniel Cooper
1 month ago
Reply to  Ed Christina

…and if he read the article, he would notice it is a public/private partnership with American Campus Communities. That group has done a wonderful job of bringing top rate campus housing to VCU. Much better than what the school provides alone.

Last edited 1 month ago by Daniel Cooper
Lucas de Block
Lucas de Block
1 month ago
Reply to  SA Chaplin

Actually, VCU has public and private sources of funding. It also acts as a sort of corporation. This would be considered a public-private partnership. Also, if you are hinting that David is a Socialist, he isn’t. Unless you are calling for the complete abolition of the private sector economy, you are not a Socialist. Saying that government spending can be used to help lower living costs in no way makes you a Socialist.

Ed Christina
Ed Christina
1 month ago
Reply to  Brian Glass

Since VCU can’t handle all the requests for on campus student housing, the answer would be yes it is

Bruce Milam
Bruce Milam
1 month ago
Reply to  Brian Glass

For years VCU ignored the student housing market and its foundation failed to keep pace with the rest of the private sector. (the foundation is “private” and pays taxes.) its building within the University’s core footprint, which is very wise and warranted.