GRTC’s shortlist for new transfer station includes Public Safety Building site

grtc buses cropped

GRTC is in the midst of a review of sites around the city in search of a location for a permanent transfer station. (Images courtesy GRTC)

GRTC is looking at five sites across the city for the home of its future bus transfer station, which would incorporate a larger mixed-use development and be the permanent successor to the temporary facility it opened last year.

Among the sites under consideration are several prominent downtown properties, including the city-owned Public Safety Building property at 500 N. 10th St., a parking lot at 401 E. Cary St. owned by Riverstone Properties and a Dominion Energy-owned parcel at 701 E. Cary St., which was formerly where the utility company’s One James River Plaza office tower stood until it was imploded in 2020.

While GRTC spokesman Henry Bendon said details are scant, the overall transfer station development could take the form of one or two buildings. The plan is that the 10-bay bus transit hub would occupy the ground level of a building in the development, which would have some combination of residential and commercial uses.

“We have engaged consultants to help us pursue a permanent downtown location and make this one a mixed-use development,” Bendon said. “We think this is an exciting opportunity to create a landmark feature building and a revenue stream and be a part of downtown.”

GRTC expects to realize the project through a public-private partnership, though a developer hasn’t been selected yet.

Of the five sites under consideration, three are identified as “high priority,” according to materials from a GRTC meeting held Thursday.

Those are the Public Safety Building site, another city-owned parking property at 609 E. Grace St., and the city-owned parking lot next to the Richmond courthouse complex at 400 N. Ninth St., which is the current home GRTC’s temporary bus hub.

grtc transfer station sites

GRTC is considering five sites for its future bus transfer hub. The property mark in green with purple stripes is the transit organization’s current temporary transfer station.

The Public Safety Building property comes with some baggage, as it has been mired in controversy since last year after the failure of a $325 million development involving VCU Health and private financiers. As a result of that failed deal, VCU Health is still on the hook to handle the building’s demolition, which is in its early stages.

Virginia Commonwealth University has also indicated interest in the site for a new dentistry school, though the status of that plan is unclear.

GRTC is not directly collaborating with VCU or VCU Health on the transit organization’s designs for the Public Safety Building site, Bendon said.

As for the site of the current temporary transfer station, GRTC is in the midst of a five-year lease with the city that ends in 2027.

At this stage, GRTC is considering a variety of elements that could be part of the overall mixed-use project, including student housing, apartments, office space and hotel uses. Coworking, community space, a small grocery store or coffee shop are among the amenities that are also on the drawing board.

Bendon said a cost estimate for the project is still being determined.

GRTC held a public meeting Thursday to discuss the project and gather feedback from the public. Another public meeting is expected to be held in March, with a final report and recommendations due in April.

After the final report is completed, GRTC would seek a developer for the project, as well as project funding, Bendon said.

GRTC has tapped HR&A Advisors, VHB and Design Collective to assist in the project to identify and create a new downtown transfer station.

grtc buses cropped

GRTC is in the midst of a review of sites around the city in search of a location for a permanent transfer station. (Images courtesy GRTC)

GRTC is looking at five sites across the city for the home of its future bus transfer station, which would incorporate a larger mixed-use development and be the permanent successor to the temporary facility it opened last year.

Among the sites under consideration are several prominent downtown properties, including the city-owned Public Safety Building property at 500 N. 10th St., a parking lot at 401 E. Cary St. owned by Riverstone Properties and a Dominion Energy-owned parcel at 701 E. Cary St., which was formerly where the utility company’s One James River Plaza office tower stood until it was imploded in 2020.

While GRTC spokesman Henry Bendon said details are scant, the overall transfer station development could take the form of one or two buildings. The plan is that the 10-bay bus transit hub would occupy the ground level of a building in the development, which would have some combination of residential and commercial uses.

“We have engaged consultants to help us pursue a permanent downtown location and make this one a mixed-use development,” Bendon said. “We think this is an exciting opportunity to create a landmark feature building and a revenue stream and be a part of downtown.”

GRTC expects to realize the project through a public-private partnership, though a developer hasn’t been selected yet.

Of the five sites under consideration, three are identified as “high priority,” according to materials from a GRTC meeting held Thursday.

Those are the Public Safety Building site, another city-owned parking property at 609 E. Grace St., and the city-owned parking lot next to the Richmond courthouse complex at 400 N. Ninth St., which is the current home GRTC’s temporary bus hub.

grtc transfer station sites

GRTC is considering five sites for its future bus transfer hub. The property mark in green with purple stripes is the transit organization’s current temporary transfer station.

The Public Safety Building property comes with some baggage, as it has been mired in controversy since last year after the failure of a $325 million development involving VCU Health and private financiers. As a result of that failed deal, VCU Health is still on the hook to handle the building’s demolition, which is in its early stages.

Virginia Commonwealth University has also indicated interest in the site for a new dentistry school, though the status of that plan is unclear.

GRTC is not directly collaborating with VCU or VCU Health on the transit organization’s designs for the Public Safety Building site, Bendon said.

As for the site of the current temporary transfer station, GRTC is in the midst of a five-year lease with the city that ends in 2027.

At this stage, GRTC is considering a variety of elements that could be part of the overall mixed-use project, including student housing, apartments, office space and hotel uses. Coworking, community space, a small grocery store or coffee shop are among the amenities that are also on the drawing board.

Bendon said a cost estimate for the project is still being determined.

GRTC held a public meeting Thursday to discuss the project and gather feedback from the public. Another public meeting is expected to be held in March, with a final report and recommendations due in April.

After the final report is completed, GRTC would seek a developer for the project, as well as project funding, Bendon said.

GRTC has tapped HR&A Advisors, VHB and Design Collective to assist in the project to identify and create a new downtown transfer station.

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Brian Glass
Brian Glass
5 months ago

Why would a residential developer want a bus transfer station as part of a project? Someone would need to explain what the advantage to that type of a relationship would be.

Michael Morgan-Dodson
Michael Morgan-Dodson
5 months ago
Reply to  Brian Glass

Also one site, if the deal is done right, would get VCU out of future tax in lieu development from its bad deal, another involves land Dominion has had on and off the market (now off) and said it really was not sure what to do with it and the other is so far off the current bus routes (4th and Cary) it would result in a large shift for users. I wonder if the City lot or old Public Safety would involve restoring Clay Street at least between 10th and 7th?

Peter James
Peter James
5 months ago

Reopening Clay street would be a real plus. Regarding location, my thinking is the best spot is either the Public Safety Building site – or – the lot adjacent to the current transfer hub. North of Broad, as close to 8th and 9th streets as possible and close to the Broad-Main PULSE line just makes the most sense. It could also bring the north-south PULSE line into play, whenever it is eventually developed. The Grace Street portion (between 6th and 7th) might be the second-best option, given the proximity to Broad Street. HOWEVER, it is far enough removed from 8th… Read more »

Peter James
Peter James
5 months ago
Reply to  Brian Glass

This is a concept that has proven incredibly successful in a variety of cities. Similar projects have either been built, are being built or are planned for Charlotte, Raleigh and Miami. “Block 37” in downtown Chicago was constructed a decade ago to accommodate the the city’s primary subway transfer center. This development includes a 16-story office building, a multi-level retail mall (both above and below ground) and a 38-story, 690 unit residential tower. The financial firm Morningstar, Inc., moved their global HQ to the Block 37 office building. I’ve been through the new “Block 37” on several and it is… Read more »

Michael Morgan-Dodson
Michael Morgan-Dodson
5 months ago
Reply to  Peter James

Petersburg and Norfolk both have nice transfer centers for gosh 7-10 years (I think) but each is nothing but a transfer center. P-burg is a nice enclosed building with Greyhound/Flixibus (with small Greyhound ticket counter), restrooms, HVAC, a attached 200-car parking deck. They even have space (but not occupied last I went) for 1-2 small retail slots (Subway was talked about and People Advantage FCU mobile bank shows up time to time too). I love the grand idea but we are not any of those cities, not even Charlotte. I am not sure GRTC could do something so large and… Read more »

Peter James
Peter James
5 months ago

We don’t have to be any of those other cities, Charlotte or otherwise, to not “settle” for what is expedient or cheap. Richmond has settled far too much during my lifetime (and I’m 61) and quite frankly I’m sick and tired of settling. It’s time we think outside the box a really go for it. As for what happened with Block D and the VCU Health disaster – we know how much VCU Health mismanaged things. That was doomed to failure (unbeknownst to the public) from the outset. The City should not get involved in the financial dealings of this… Read more »

Michael Morgan-Dodson
Michael Morgan-Dodson
5 months ago
Reply to  Peter James

We want to think and act big then you need to replace ALL of the City Council, the Mayor and his senior staff and not anoint a Jones 3.0 as the next Mayor. This city has many, many, many basic issues that are not addressed (poor schools buildings, lack of park maintenance, incredible bad record keeping and billing, a $300M courthouse request, you name it and our “credit card” has reached its max. Charlotte and Raleigh have also annexed over the last 50 years. If Richmond had kept annexing or completed the consolidation in 1968/9, the Henrico/Richmond combo might rival… Read more »

Tim Pfohl
Tim Pfohl
5 months ago

survey the frequent users to see where they need to get to, because it seems like 8th and Clay/Leigh is the nexus of destinations the most daily riders might be headed for employment, education, medical and social services etc, and offers the most logical site for adding in some student housing (near VCU med campus) and/or hotel (near convention center). why make them transfer down on Cary St when that’s several blocks downhill from where most are probably headed?

Last edited 5 months ago by Tim Pfohl