The planned redevelopment of the downtown YMCA complex is providing a boon for the owner of The Jefferson Hotel and Second Baptist Church building across the street.
The YMCA of Greater Richmond on Friday sold two of its parking lots to the development group it’s working with to add market-rate apartments to its downtown building and on adjacent properties that are slated for new construction.
One of the half-acre lots, at the corner of Foushee and Grace streets, was sold for $2.4 million to the group, which is now planning a slightly shorter apartment building there.
The other lot, along Foushee across Franklin Street from the Y building, was sold for $2 million and is now in the hands of an LLC tied to Riverstone Properties, the Bill Goodwin-owned company whose assets include The Jefferson, the Second Baptist building and adjacent parking lots used by the hotel.
George Emerson, who is heading up the project with frequent collaborator Phil Roper and fellow developers Tom Papa and Dennis Lynch, said they determined the Foushee lot didn’t fit with their plans and approached the LLC with an offer.
Emerson and a YMCA spokesman said their contract included an assignment clause that allowed Emerson’s group to transfer the property to another party. Emerson wouldn’t name the other party beyond the LLC listed on the property deed recorded with the city.
“We had the right to assign our contract, and that was a piece that we didn’t need in our deal, so we sold it out to another developer,” Emerson said. “It just didn’t fit in with what we were doing (with the rest of the properties).”
The transactions signal the start of the multi-phased project that Emerson said would now begin with the new building at Foushee and Grace, along with interior rehabs of the Y building. Work on the Y building is contingent on its sale, which YMCA spokesman Barry Saunders said is anticipated along with the remaining properties over the next 12 to 18 months.
The deals also give Riverstone complete ownership over the city block that includes the century-old Second Baptist building, which it has sought to demolish, citing structural deterioration and a need for more parking.
It isn’t clear whether the addition of the Foushee lot could factor into the parking need or the demolition plan, which Goodwin has held off on through a “gentlemen’s agreement” that was reached to allow stakeholders more time to explore options for potentially preserving the building. Preservationists have called for saving the neoclassic-style building, which is considered architecturally significant.
The agreement, reached in February, was to be for three months, but conversations about the property are said to be ongoing. A demolition permit awarded by the city this spring remains valid through April 2023.
Riverstone did not respond to a request for comment. A message left for principal Chris Corrada was not returned Wednesday.
Saunders said the Foushee lot will continue to be used by Y members and employees in the near term. He said fewer spaces in the lot will be available to the Y after its corporate offices are relocated over the course of the project. Overall parking for members would increase with the new buildings planned behind the Y building, he said.
Where the group had been planning to start the project with a new building at Grace and Adams, Emerson said the Y rehab would now coincide with construction of the Grace-and-Foushee building, which has been scaled down in size.
A development plan filed with the city this week calls for a seven-story building with 118 apartments and three levels of parking, one of them underground. The group was initially said to be planning an 11-story building with 160 units for that site.
The plan shows the building would include 133 parking spaces and an 1,800-square-foot commercial space fronting Grace. Vehicular access to the building would be off the alley between the site and the Y building.
The corner at Grace and Adams is planned for a six-story building with 70 apartments, structured parking and commercial space fronting Grace.
An additional 36 apartments would be added to the Y building’s top three floors, bringing the total apartment count for the project to 224.
Walter Parks Architects is designing the apartments, and Silvercore is handling engineering work. Markham Planning is handling filings with the city.
Emerson said his group is aiming to start work on the Y building and the new Grace-and-Foushee building in the first half of next year.
“We just have some historic (preservation) issues and zoning issues on the existing Y that we need to get straight before we can close on it. We’re working through those now,” he said.
“We’re always looking for great properties that we think are great locations, and I think that property is a premier location downtown, so we’re excited about acquiring it.”
Saunders said the Y is glad to see the project progressing with the land deals.
“We’re excited that we’re underway,” he said. “That makes it official, and we’re glad to see that things are moving.”
The Y had owned the Grace-and-Foushee lot since 2008, when it purchased three buildings and demolished them for a planned $20 million expansion that was later scrapped. The four parcels that make up the lot, 1-7 W. Grace St., were assessed by the city at $965,000 combined.
The two parcels that make up the Foushee lot – 1 W. Franklin St. and 2 W. Main St. – had been owned by the Y for decades and were assessed at $1.3 million.
• BizSense reporter Mike Platania contributed to this report.