City EDA ponders disposition of Intermediate Terminal building, other properties

20230822 113814

The fate of the Intermediate Terminal Building has been unclear since 2018. (Mike Platania photo)

After a few staid years, the fate of the Intermediate Terminal building along the riverfront is once again being weighed. 

The Richmond Economic Development Authority, which owns the old, stilted warehouse at 3101 E. Main St., held a committee meeting last week at which it discussed in closed session the disposition of the property, as well as a 3-acre EDA-owned site across the street at 4303 and 4319 E. Main St. 

Once planned to be converted by Stone Brewing Co. into a World Bistro & Gardens, the 30,000-square-foot terminal building has been caught in limbo for several years. In 2018 the city and Stone discovered the building was in worse condition than originally thought and sought permission to raze it, but never moved forward with demolition. 

Things took a turn in 2020 when an EDA-commissioned report found that a restaurant conversion was in fact feasible for the 103-year-old building, though no announcements regarding the bistro have been made by either the EDA or Stone since then. 

At least week’s meeting, the EDA’s real estate committee went into a closed session for the discussion, with Leonard Sledge, director of the city’s Department of Economic Development, citing the typical closed session disclaimer that discussing the matter publicly could “adversely affect (the EDA’s) bargaining position and negotiating strategy.”

While the EDA wouldn’t say explicitly what was discussed regarding the building at last week’s meeting, Sledge said after the meeting that the group is in the early stages of exploring its options for the terminal property and the acreage across the street.

A Stone spokesperson declined to comment last week on any bistro plans in Richmond and said the “Terminal Building is completely in the hands of the EDA.”

Stone has two bistros in its hometown of San Diego, where it serves beer by Stone and other breweries, as well as a food menu with pub fare like pretzels, burgers, tacos and wings. Stone, now owned by Japanese beer giant Sapporo Holdings, was slated to receive $8 million in bonds from the city to help fund the Richmond bistro, but those funds were never disbursed as the project stayed on the shelf. 

In the years since the Terminal building’s structural issues were first made public, Stone’s public language around a bistro project in Richmond has gradually shifted.

In 2019 the brewery’s-then CEO said that a Richmond bistro “will happen” and that it’s “not just going to walk away” from the project. In 2021 its current COO Sean Monahan said the company remained committed to bringing a “food experience” to Richmond and that it was focused on doing so on the Intermediate Terminal Building site. 

stone2

Stone’s brewing facility in the East End. (BizSense file photo)

Last year, ahead of Stone’s $168 million sale to Sapporo, Monahan said the Richmond Bistro was not in their immediate plans. Most recently, Stone kicked off a $40 million expansion of its Fulton facility and taproom. 

A pair of other high-profile, EDA-controlled parcels were also the subject of last week’s closed-door committee meeting. Its agenda included discussion of the disposition of the 17-acre, former Washington Commanders Training Facility at 2701 W. Leigh St. and the 9-acre assemblage anchored by the Richmond Coliseum that’s in line to be transformed into the City Center mixed-use development. 

The Training Facility is owned by the state and the EDA holds a lease on it. In 2013, the city made a deal with the NFL franchise for it to bring its preseason training camps to Richmond, a pact that included the city making cash payments to the franchise and was often criticized.

The Commanders, then the Washington Football Team, held their final training camp in Richmond in 2021, and any future use of the site would require state approval. Per an RTD report, Mayor Levar Stoney said in June that he’d like to see it become public green space. 

Sledge said last week that much like the discussion around the Intermediate Terminal property, the EDA talked in committee about what could be next for the training facility.

The committee’s discussion of the City Center properties occurred while four development teams are vying for the right to redevelop the sites as part of the City Center project.

It’s unclear when the city intends to select the winning team for that project, and the EDA’s committee agenda stated that it met to discuss the possible award of a contract, as well as pertinent terms and scope of the contract.  

20230822 113814

The fate of the Intermediate Terminal Building has been unclear since 2018. (Mike Platania photo)

After a few staid years, the fate of the Intermediate Terminal building along the riverfront is once again being weighed. 

The Richmond Economic Development Authority, which owns the old, stilted warehouse at 3101 E. Main St., held a committee meeting last week at which it discussed in closed session the disposition of the property, as well as a 3-acre EDA-owned site across the street at 4303 and 4319 E. Main St. 

Once planned to be converted by Stone Brewing Co. into a World Bistro & Gardens, the 30,000-square-foot terminal building has been caught in limbo for several years. In 2018 the city and Stone discovered the building was in worse condition than originally thought and sought permission to raze it, but never moved forward with demolition. 

Things took a turn in 2020 when an EDA-commissioned report found that a restaurant conversion was in fact feasible for the 103-year-old building, though no announcements regarding the bistro have been made by either the EDA or Stone since then. 

At least week’s meeting, the EDA’s real estate committee went into a closed session for the discussion, with Leonard Sledge, director of the city’s Department of Economic Development, citing the typical closed session disclaimer that discussing the matter publicly could “adversely affect (the EDA’s) bargaining position and negotiating strategy.”

While the EDA wouldn’t say explicitly what was discussed regarding the building at last week’s meeting, Sledge said after the meeting that the group is in the early stages of exploring its options for the terminal property and the acreage across the street.

A Stone spokesperson declined to comment last week on any bistro plans in Richmond and said the “Terminal Building is completely in the hands of the EDA.”

Stone has two bistros in its hometown of San Diego, where it serves beer by Stone and other breweries, as well as a food menu with pub fare like pretzels, burgers, tacos and wings. Stone, now owned by Japanese beer giant Sapporo Holdings, was slated to receive $8 million in bonds from the city to help fund the Richmond bistro, but those funds were never disbursed as the project stayed on the shelf. 

In the years since the Terminal building’s structural issues were first made public, Stone’s public language around a bistro project in Richmond has gradually shifted.

In 2019 the brewery’s-then CEO said that a Richmond bistro “will happen” and that it’s “not just going to walk away” from the project. In 2021 its current COO Sean Monahan said the company remained committed to bringing a “food experience” to Richmond and that it was focused on doing so on the Intermediate Terminal Building site. 

stone2

Stone’s brewing facility in the East End. (BizSense file photo)

Last year, ahead of Stone’s $168 million sale to Sapporo, Monahan said the Richmond Bistro was not in their immediate plans. Most recently, Stone kicked off a $40 million expansion of its Fulton facility and taproom. 

A pair of other high-profile, EDA-controlled parcels were also the subject of last week’s closed-door committee meeting. Its agenda included discussion of the disposition of the 17-acre, former Washington Commanders Training Facility at 2701 W. Leigh St. and the 9-acre assemblage anchored by the Richmond Coliseum that’s in line to be transformed into the City Center mixed-use development. 

The Training Facility is owned by the state and the EDA holds a lease on it. In 2013, the city made a deal with the NFL franchise for it to bring its preseason training camps to Richmond, a pact that included the city making cash payments to the franchise and was often criticized.

The Commanders, then the Washington Football Team, held their final training camp in Richmond in 2021, and any future use of the site would require state approval. Per an RTD report, Mayor Levar Stoney said in June that he’d like to see it become public green space. 

Sledge said last week that much like the discussion around the Intermediate Terminal property, the EDA talked in committee about what could be next for the training facility.

The committee’s discussion of the City Center properties occurred while four development teams are vying for the right to redevelop the sites as part of the City Center project.

It’s unclear when the city intends to select the winning team for that project, and the EDA’s committee agenda stated that it met to discuss the possible award of a contract, as well as pertinent terms and scope of the contract.  

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Scott Burger
Scott Burger
8 months ago

An independent review is warranted of the VDHR Executive Evaluation Committee’s determination that the Intermediate Terminal is not eligible for listing on the National Register and its finding that no historic properties would be affected by the demolition of the Intermediate Terminal Warehouse #3.

Nick Feakins
Nick Feakins
8 months ago
Reply to  Scott Burger

Why? Does anyone really want to see that concrete box saved? To what end?

Scott Burger
Scott Burger
8 months ago
Reply to  Nick Feakins

1) The VDHR determination that the Terminal is not eligible for the National Register listing was based largely upon the report by Dutton & Associates LLC (Dutton), submitted on behalf of the City of Richmond. This report included inaccurate and incomplete information. The city submitted the Dutton “final” report to VDHR on Friday, June 29, 2018 and VDHR’s Executive Evaluation Committee met only two business days later on July 3, 2018 to consider the eligibility of the Terminal. Unfortunately, this short time span did not allow the public a reasonable opportunity to comment through the Section 106 process on the… Read more »

Justin Ranson
Justin Ranson
8 months ago
Reply to  Scott Burger

If anything, rushing to that determination is doing the city and surrounding area a favor, That crumbling mess of concrete needs to go, it’s hideous, it’s going to cost to much to turn into anything useful, and it’s not historic. We don’t need to slap the “historic” label on things just because they’re old.

Shawn Harper
Shawn Harper
8 months ago
Reply to  Justin Ranson

In many places, the historical fetishists are some of the “Thinker Types” that impede progress. I was watching a video this morning on how the Flatiron Bldg, one that SHOULD be saved no matter what is currently empty 🙁 — but this very cool building, built in the beautiful beauxs-arts style that many early skyscrapers were built in, was only built because a lot of cool, but lessor bldgs were demolished. I am no Philistine — I think the old Penn Station should’ve been saved, but it was not the city’s decision and the great age of passenger rail was… Read more »

Shawn Harper
Shawn Harper
8 months ago
Reply to  Scott Burger

The building is ugly and was built to BE ugly — it is essentially a warehouse, but uglier than most.

Scott Burger
Scott Burger
8 months ago
Reply to  Nick Feakins

2) According to the May 31, 2018 Minutes of the VDHR National Register Evaluation Committee, “The committee recommended asking the City of Richmond to evaluate the area surrounding the Intermediate Terminal as a potential industrial historic, with Warehouse #3 as a potential contributing resource.” Unfortunately, the City of Richmond and VDHR failed to evaluate the area surrounding the Intermediate Terminal as a potential historic district with the Terminal as a contributing resource as recommended by the DHR National Register Evaluation Committee. While I believe that the Terminal is eligible for individual listing on the National Register, the Section 106 process was… Read more »

Scott Burger
Scott Burger
8 months ago
Reply to  Nick Feakins

3) According to the June 14, 2018 minutes of the VDHR National Register Evaluation Committee, “The building itself retains integrity of location, design, materials and workmanship, but has lost its associative context and setting due to the demolition of most of the complex.” However, the July 6, 2018 VDHR Executive Evaluation Committee letter stated that that the Terminal “lost integrity of setting, design, materials, workmanship, feeling and association.” Even the city’s Dutton report conceded that the Terminal had integrity of location, design, materials and workmanship. It is unknown why the VDHR Executive Evaluation Committee did not support the VDHR staff… Read more »

Scott Burger
Scott Burger
8 months ago
Reply to  Nick Feakins

4) The paramount importance of Richmond’s port in the development of the city’s history is accepted by all parties. The Dutton report, in approximately 20 pages, did an admirable job in sketching out the historical importance of Richmond’s port. The eloquent review by Dutton of the great historical significance of Richmond’s port renders the report’s final dismissal of the significance of the surviving port Terminal all the more startling and incongruous. While it is unfortunate that Terminal Warehouse buildings #1 and #2 were demolished in 2007, the surviving Warehouse Terminal #3 was built independently of those warehouse buildings. Warehouse Terminal… Read more »

Scott Burger
Scott Burger
8 months ago
Reply to  Nick Feakins

5) The Dutton report inaccurately stated, “Nor does the Warehouse #3 represent any unique or noteworthy aspect of architecture, construction, or commercial development.” Dutton neglected to mention the noteworthy and innovative feature of the Terminal’s construction on reinforced concrete piers. I am not aware of any other commercial building on the historic register in the Richmond area that was built on piers to avoid flooding. This innovative design feature will become more appreciated historically as global warming increases the imperative of this design feature. The pier construction of the Terminal resulted in a striking, iconic structure known to Richmonders’ as… Read more »

Shawn Harper
Shawn Harper
8 months ago
Reply to  Scott Burger

OMG

Scott Burger
Scott Burger
8 months ago
Reply to  Nick Feakins

6) The Terminal not only has a vital association with the transportation/shipping theme of Richmond’s port, but it also has an important association with President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s “New Deal.” The Terminal construction began in 1937 in part with “New Deal” funds through the Public Works Administration. The year earlier, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt visited the city’s municipal wharf, and docked his yacht, the S. S. Potomac (which itself is listed on the National Register) at the Intermediate Terminal dock. The federal Public Works Administration apparently also funded, as part of the same harbor improvements, the adjacent Water Street Bridge… Read more »

Justin Ranson
Justin Ranson
8 months ago
Reply to  Scott Burger

Federal Funding doesn’t make something historic. I’m not sure why you keep inserting that as a reason to save this blighted monstrosity.

Michael Morgan-Dodson
Michael Morgan-Dodson
8 months ago
Reply to  Justin Ranson

That is true but being a beneficiary CDBG funding over its lifetime (not sure if it this building or site did) but that would trigger a Section 106 review before the asset is sold off.

Shawn Harper
Shawn Harper
8 months ago
Reply to  Justin Ranson

He’s an ideologoue, and someone who resents the people who get things built — they never build shrines to The Great Critics (except maybe Mencken and Voltaire)

Shawn Harper
Shawn Harper
8 months ago
Reply to  Scott Burger

Oh boy, a politician docked there!! Build a shrine for the Pilgrims!!!

How about this Mr. Burger: The intermediate terminal was a failure almost as soon as it was built.

It is called intermediate because there were two more successful ones — Shockoe Slip, which became obsolete, and the now thriving deepwater Port of Richmond — hopefully there are no ugly bldgs down there old enough for some academic to declare “Historic”….

Scott Burger
Scott Burger
8 months ago
Reply to  Nick Feakins

7) The bridge over Gillies Creek that is immediately adjacent to the north of the Terminal has been determined by VDHR to be potentially eligible for listing on the National Register. It is believed that this bridge was constructed with “New Deal” funds through the Public Works Administration as part of the same harbor improvements that funded the Terminal construction. Along with the wharf, and railroad tracks, the Water Street Bridge is a significant structure that should have been considered as part of a district with the Terminal. According to the VDHR file (ID # 127-0257), “This [Water Street Bridge]… Read more »

Scott Burger
Scott Burger
8 months ago
Reply to  Nick Feakins

8) One of the most egregious errors of the Dutton report its incredible assertion that the massive Intermediate Terminal Wharf somehow has been “removed.” Dutton cited this “removal” of the wharf to support the thesis that the integrity of the Terminal’s setting has been irrevocably compromised. While grass has been planted over the landing, the wharf itself has survived, complete with the original brass plaque. The extant wharf structure is an important feature of the Intermediate Terminal and contributes greatly to the integrity of the setting of the Terminal building. The Terminal’s close proximity to the surviving wharf and to… Read more »

Scott Burger
Scott Burger
8 months ago
Reply to  Nick Feakins

9) “... most inland building of the complex with no direct access to the river or wharf.” Dutton’s report incorrectly implies that the Terminal #3 is somehow divorced from the river and the function of the port. A site visit reveals that the Terminal #3 is a stone-throw from the James River. Dutton’s inaccurate statement ignores the fact that the very successful function of Warehouse #3 as a port terminal was enhanced because it was built on piers and with docks oriented to Lester Street above flood level. The Lester Street access was accessible to load from the ships by… Read more »

Scott Burger
Scott Burger
8 months ago
Reply to  Nick Feakins

10) To support the inaccurate conclusion that the setting of the Terminal lacks integrity, Dutton also erroneously asserted that the railroad tracks supporting the Terminal have been removed. Contrary to this inaccurate assertion, the railroad tracks are extant under the first bay of the Terminal and extend south of the Terminal for approximately 300 feet.

Scott Burger
Scott Burger
8 months ago
Reply to  Nick Feakins

11) It should be of great concern to the Advisory Council that the concrete slab foundation of the two Intermediate Warehouses No. 1 and 2 was removed recently without the required Section 106 review. The Dutton report cited the recent removal of the foundation slabs as contributing to the lack of integrity of the site: “The site has been further compromised recently as the concrete slab bordering the river that was the foundation of Warehouses No. 1 and 2 was demolished and replaced with a grass field.” The City of Richmond was responsible for the removal of the slab foundations… Read more »

Scott Burger
Scott Burger
8 months ago
Reply to  Nick Feakins

12) Wrote noted architectural historian Bryan Green in the PIF submitted on June 13, 2018: “The National Register traditionally recognizes a property’s integrity through seven aspects or qualities: location, design, setting, materials, workmanship, feeling and association. These qualities, as retained in the Intermediate Terminal, are discussed below. Location The Intermediate Terminal, including Warehouse #3, retains integrity of location, as the associated wharf, railroad tracks, and road remain in the location of their original construction, and have not been moved. Design The Intermediate Terminal, including Warehouse #3, retains integrity of design. When compared with the original architectural drawings, Warehouse #3 retains its… Read more »

Scott Burger
Scott Burger
8 months ago
Reply to  Nick Feakins

Now these replies were part of an appeal written in 2018. We have seen how historical materials have gradually been stripped away. It’s been pretty devious, but no one should be fooled by this.

Shawn Harper
Shawn Harper
8 months ago
Reply to  Nick Feakins

For some reason, for some people, old=beautiful and it gives them another subject to complain about.

Anita Heiney
Anita Heiney
8 months ago

Currently this area is used for: 1) a sleeping spot for homeless, 2) a late night party spot with loud music and large groups of people, and 3) a camping/living area for people who live in campers, buses or vans. (I don’t even want to know where they’re using the bathroom). It’s a great area that could be used to create a beautiful safe area for people. Now, it’s just a dump. Do something with it.

Shawn Harper
Shawn Harper
8 months ago
Reply to  Anita Heiney

A Voice of Reason.

Justin Fritch
Justin Fritch
8 months ago
Reply to  Anita Heiney

As a near by resident, I can tell you that most of the loud, late night partying and car club meets are taking place in the adjacent Sugar Pad parking lot, grassy area, and the old silo site, so demolishing of the building would not change that. Under the radar, there have been some interesting shows (international puppet acts, DJs, concerts) under the building utilizing the cargo platform.

Tyler Benson
Tyler Benson
8 months ago

I would love to see the training facility turned into green space. Even just public soccer fields.

Michael Morgan-Dodson
Michael Morgan-Dodson
8 months ago
Reply to  Tyler Benson

How??? EDA is considering “disposing” of a site they ONLY lease. Lease termination means nothing. Glad we spent how much to build and operate a “no cost” to taxpayers facilities that cost us millions, brought zero return, and who “disposition” will bring zero dollars. Glad the EDA is in charge of the Diamond District and City Center projects…what could go wrong!

Shawn Harper
Shawn Harper
8 months ago

Good points.

Richmond has had bad leadership for a long time.

Shawn Harper
Shawn Harper
8 months ago

All the people who are angry about Stone should be more focused on the Sports Tourism rhetoric that caused that Redskins training camp to get built. Stone was a private company and them coming here was a boon to Richmond, and they made some promises that, after things changed, didn’t make a BUSINESS sense — and this is supposed to be a BUSINESS focused newsite, yes? If you want to understand a bit more about reality, you could start with watching the documentary about the CEO of Stone and his vision of opening up a Stone destination in Berlin, Germany… Read more »

Shawn Harper
Shawn Harper
8 months ago
Reply to  Shawn Harper

In case anyone thinks I am being ghoulish, I am not. In fact, one of my favorite small brewpubs, Skipping Rock, closed earlier this year. For beer snobs, this place was great and was a destination — it seemed all their beers were either yummy or interesting and usually both — and they seemed to do an okay business because they were the only one in their location, but that was because they were sort of at the Edge of Civilization — and I suspect that one of the reasons they closed was that there were too many places that… Read more »

Michael Morgan-Dodson
Michael Morgan-Dodson
8 months ago

So has anyone ever reviewed the time the EDA is in closed session versus open meetings. I mean you would think a government agencies that has a history of failed projects and wasted tax dollars they would not close every single meeting. I could get the disposition to a certain party (negotiations) and THAT sales contract (that could be coming) would be construed as confidential but a general discussion of getting rid of public owned properties is exempt from public view? Someone got their closed meeting section they referenced?

Bob Slydell
Bob Slydell
8 months ago

I am convinced the only reason people want to save this building is because its on stilts.

Shawn Harper
Shawn Harper
8 months ago
Reply to  Bob Slydell

It DOES make it a bit more interesting — kinda like a spider.

Denis Etonach
Denis Etonach
8 months ago

“… the old, stilted warehouse at 3101 E. Main St.”

“Old?” Was it built in 1971? 1811?

Bizsense often omits this particular piece of information in its reporting, and I have to say that it’s sloppy.

Shawn Harper
Shawn Harper
8 months ago
Reply to  Denis Etonach

Well, they DID say the bldg was 103 years old, but that requires a little arithmetic, doesn’t it?

Ed Christina
Ed Christina
8 months ago
Reply to  Shawn Harper

Ok, it’s been a while, but didn’t Stone get huge huge concessions and money to build the brewery, money that The Answer, Hardywood, and Stangeways didn’t? And didn’t they get way more than the final 8 million on the promise of building a restaurant that would create jobs? In my opinion, just because you get bought doesn’t free a company from it’s obligations. Also, if things “don’t make business sense” you don’t just get to disregard agreements I can understand delays, or reasonable adjustments, but just saying “Nope” should come with a big penalty of grant money and tax breaks… Read more »

Anita Heiney
Anita Heiney
8 months ago
Reply to  Ed Christina

Stone wanted/tried to do something with the building but it was halted/stonewalled due to “protesting” from the BurgerMeister (see comments above).
So, here we are.

David Humphrey
David Humphrey
8 months ago
Reply to  Ed Christina

Those other breweries are nowhere near the scale of Stone. That is really what the incentives that have been paid were for. With their recently announced expansion that would double output it still looks like a good deal.

Other incentives toed to the Bistro and this building were not paid since they did not complete it for the disputed reasons above.

Yes, there are bad deals, but overall this was not one of them.