Downtown is slated to get another 300-plus residents as another Central Business District office tower is eyed for a new use.
The Vakos Cos. is planning to convert the Wytestone Plaza building at 801 E. Main St. into apartments.
Vakos bought the 17-story building in 1997 for $3.5 million and has operated it as an office building ever since, with the Virginia Department of Social Services as its primary tenant. It also had a bank branch on the ground floor for many years.
Once known as the Ross Building, Wytestone Plaza was built in the 1960s. That age makes it eligible for historic tax credits and helped spur the decision to change its use, said Lee Shadbolt, president of Commonwealth Architects, which is designing the conversion.
“Mid-century modern buildings over 50 years of age now qualify for historic investment tax credits. This is the first, large mid-century modern building that we’ve done,” Shadbolt said. “The fact (Vakos) could get tax credits, and we realized that’s now a possibility when we go to retrofit or modernize the building – that’s a big piece of it.”
The roughly 280,000-square-foot building includes three levels of below-grade parking and a ground-floor commercial space that had once housed a Wells Fargo branch but is now vacant. The commercial space will remain as part of the conversion and the floor above it will house amenities for tenants including a lounge, office and gym.
The remaining 15 stories will be a mix of studio, one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments, which Shadbolt said average out to around 1,000 square feet.
“The (units) will actually get larger as they go up. It won’t be a simple stack,” he said. “The building has three different layouts as it goes higher in the structure. The units get larger as they go up because the view gets better.”
Shadbolt said Vakos is looking to have the apartments ready sometime next year and that the conversion should be straightforward.
“We’re not changing stairs and elevators, we’re not modifying the exterior envelope and the circulation core, and a lot of the infrastructure remains intact,” Shadbolt said.
Vakos is seeking a special-use permit for the project because requirements regarding operable windows for dwelling units aren’t met by the building.
Plans show that engineering firms Daniels & Associates and Dunlap & Partners are also working on the project.
Wytestone Plaza is the second office tower to be eyed for apartment use this year. In the spring, Genesis Properties went under contract to buy a pair of Dominion Energy-owned properties, including the Eighth & Main office building, which it’s planning to turn into 300 apartments. Genesis is also planning to buy a nearby parking deck and build another 300 apartments on top of that.
Between Genesis and Vakos’ projects, 900 new apartments are now in the pipeline for the CBD. Shadbolt said he thinks there will be more to come, particularly historic tax credit-fueled conversions.
“I think we’ll absolutely see more. Every year we see the same thing, people keep coming back to the city,” he said. “In 2000 it flipped. People (had been) leaving the city. Now the amount of people that live in city limits has increased. That’s why we’re seeing more adaptive reuse projects, and they keep getting closer to the city core.”