A code-named industrial project in the works near St. Joseph’s Villa has turned out to be the planned new home for regional food bank Feed More, setting the stage for a move that would free up some prime real estate near Richmond’s Diamond District.
The local nonprofit confirmed to BizSense that it’s behind Project Nourish, the development plan recently filed with Henrico County for a wooded site at 8020 Villa Park Drive.
The project name is a reference to Feed More’s slogan of “nourishing communities and empowering lives.”
CEO Doug Pick said the new facility would improve Feed More’s operations over its current headquarters at 1415 and 1601 Rhoadmiller St., a pair of century-old buildings beside the interstate that are just blocks from the Diamond District redevelopment site and in the heart of a transforming industrial corridor.
In addition to the Diamond District, the massive mixed-use development to be anchored by a new baseball stadium, Feed More’s complex is next door to the 41-acre assemblage that’s planned to house the VCU Athletics Village. It’s also sandwiched by residential development to the south and the new Park at RVA entertainment venue across the street.
Pick said activity from those forthcoming developments would make Feed More’s delivery operations more challenging, at a site that he said the nonprofit outgrew years ago. Where its current complex totals 90,000 square feet, the new building would total 124,000, providing about 25 percent more space.
“It allows us to grow for the future,” Pick said. “Unfortunately, the need is getting greater.”
Feed More collects, prepares and distributes 40 million pounds of food annually, Pick said, serving a network of over 270 agencies that stretches across 34 counties and cities. The nonprofit employs 100 full-time workers and uses more than 200 volunteers daily at its current complex, where the food bank has been based for over 20 years.
Over the past decade, Pick said, “We have increased our productivity by three times, and we have four less employees than we had 10 years ago. We were moving about 13 million pounds, and last year we moved about 40.
“We run this place like quite the business,” he said. “It’s a really big business with a heart.”
With more access points for pickups and deliveries, the new facility would double the size of Feed More’s prep kitchen and provide additional cold storage space, allowing it to cut costs for off-site storage that Pick said have totaled $30,000 a month. The larger building would also house additional administrative space and collaborative areas and meeting spaces for volunteers and partner agencies.
Pick said the move would be the fifth in the history of Feed More, which was formed in 2008 with the combination of the Central Virginia Food Bank and delivery service Meals on Wheels, the latter of which dated back locally to 1967. Pick said the first Meals on Wheels in Richmond was housed in a space above what’s now 3 Monkeys Bar & Grill in the Fan.
Laughing, he said, “We’ve come so far!”
The nonprofit considered 18 sites across metro Richmond before landing on Villa Park, which Pick said was favored for its access to the interstate and Route 1, as well as its central location for Feed More’s employees and volunteers. Feed More conducted its search with Colliers’ Joe Marchetti and with Structur, a consulting arm of real estate firm Hourigan, which is developing the Villa Park project.
Also involved in the project are architecture firm Baskervill and engineering firm Timmons Group, which has previously conducted food drives for Feed More. Pick said a general contractor would be selected later this month.
Feed More is under contract to purchase the site from property owner Commonwealth Foundation for Cancer Research, a charitable organization led by Bill and Alice Goodwin. Marchetti is representing Feed More in its purchase, which Pick said is scheduled to close this spring.
The property – between the Villa Park I building that houses Labcorp and the former Colortree printing plant that’s now home to Moore-owned Richmond Print Group – was previously owned by Riverstone Properties, Bill Goodwin’s real estate firm, which gifted it to the foundation last July. The 9-acre site is assessed by Henrico at $830,700.
Should the development plan receive county approval according to schedule, Pick said construction on the project could start this August and last about 14 months.
Feed More would relocate once the new building is complete in late 2024 – a move that Pick said is not dependent on selling its current home. He said the nonprofit has been fielding interest from developers but does not need to sell the Rhoadmiller site for the Villa Park project, which would be covered through fundraising. Pick projected the project cost at between $35 million and $40 million.
“We’re raising money now. We don’t need this (sale) to get going on the project, so I am not going to settle,” Pick said.
Consisting of a former tobacco warehouse and part of another, Feed More’s current complex spans 6 acres across two properties. Its main building was last purchased in 1999 for $1.35 million and is assessed by the city at $5.81 million. It purchased the 1.5-acre property it also owns next door in 2012 for $850,000. That property is assessed at $1.81 million.
A former IBM and Capital One executive who came out of retirement to lead Feed More in 2012, Pick said he expects developer interest in the area to result in a windfall for the food bank.
“I fully expect to get the same price per acre that everyone else is getting around here, which is anywhere from $3 million” and up, Pick said, noting a 1.7-acre property in the vicinity that sold in November for $4.6 million. “We don’t need to settle on something that’s less than what the going market price is. We have the ability to wait it out.”