19th century Franklin Street building slated for apartment conversion

207 W Franklin St

Signage notes the proposed rezoning to allow the 1880s-era building to be converted into apartments. (Jonathan Spiers photo)

A former residence-turned-office building along Franklin Street downtown is being proposed for a conversion into nearly a dozen apartments.

Alex Bowman, a financial advisor based out of Washington, D.C., is seeking a special-use permit to convert the T. Seddon Bruce House at 207 W. Franklin St. into 11 apartments, three of which would be housed in a new-construction carriage house behind the 19th century house.

Bowman, who purchased the 0.2-acre property at auction in 2021, is working with Johannas Design Group on the project, which would add eight units in the existing structure. The new carriage house would also include a four-car garage.

The three-story building has been vacant since Bowman purchased it through an LLC for $1 million. It was previously used as offices and had been the home of SB&A Integrated Marketing, a local marketing and consumer research firm that was acquired by Kansas-based agency GlynnDevins in 2016. It was most recently used by a law firm.

The property was assessed by the city in 2021 at nearly $1.3 million. It’s currently assessed at $869,000.

207 W Franklin St 3

The apartment conversion would involve additions to the building and a new carriage house behind it. (City documents)

Built in the early 1880s, the 10,000-square-foot Queen Anne-style brick building is included in national and city historic districts, making the project subject to approval by Richmond’s Commission of Architectural Review. A special-use application states the project has received approval from the Virginia Department of Historic Resources, which holds a preservation easement.

According to the application from Johannas Design’s Nathan March, previously deferred maintenance has caused the building to deteriorate. It was listed for sale for three years before it sold and was rented below the market rate for the area.

“Having explored potential adaptive reuse concepts for office and multifamily, the former grand home is inefficient for typical multifamily use, and reusing the building in its current configuration is infeasible,” March wrote.

The conversion would renovate the building and include a rear addition, as well as porch additions. The four-car garage would be accessed off an alley.

The special-use request is scheduled to go before the Planning Commission today (Tuesday). City planning staff is recommending approval.

The property is a block west of The Jefferson Hotel and next door to the Mayo-Carter House, which was the longtime home of nonprofit Junior League of Richmond before it sold in 2022 for $1.2 million.

Bowman’s LLC was also the purchaser on that property. He could not be reached for comment.

POSTED IN Commercial Real Estate

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David Adler
David Adler
30 days ago

Looks like an excellent use of this property!

Peter James
Peter James
30 days ago

Outstanding project. Looking forward to seeing this come together. 👍 I’m sure the rents will be pricey, but it would be pretty cool to live there.

Last edited 30 days ago by Peter James
Michael Morgan-Dodson
Michael Morgan-Dodson
29 days ago

I hope the CAR does push on the materials; the connection “slot” on the main building and the sides of the dormer windows in the rendering look like siding of some kind. Vinyl nor hardiplank should be allowed. I know you want to distinguish between the original historic structures and the new additions but another material like stucco or modern unique design textured concrete would be better than siding. Otherwise the reuse plan is great!

Charles Frankenhoff
Charles Frankenhoff
29 days ago

while I agree with you, it’s often CAR that does the pushing on this. We need to get rid of the Secretary of the Interior standards from the 1970s – they were designed to push modernism in additions in a way that is totally inappropriate for old architecture.

I’m glad to see this building reused, I hope CAR makes it easy on them.

Shawn Harper
Shawn Harper
29 days ago

Thank you for posting this.

Michael Morgan-Dodson
Michael Morgan-Dodson
28 days ago

Or we could develop our own guidelines for the historical district and what goes into a home in rhe city O&H thar is published on a pattern guidebook like Norfolk and does get updated regularly like Norfolk does.

Zach Rugar
Zach Rugar
29 days ago

I actually love when developers do this to old homes. This is already a huge trend in Petersburg and Colonial Heights.

Shawn Harper
Shawn Harper
28 days ago
Reply to  Zach Rugar

Petersburg can be quite restrictive.

Michael Boyer
Michael Boyer
29 days ago

Can you imagine the amount of money it would cost to build just the facade of that building today.Look at the detail in the brickwork.

Thomas Carter
Thomas Carter
29 days ago
Reply to  Michael Boyer

Some history of the Bruce family at 207 Franklin Street… RICHMOND TIMES-DISPATCH, Sunday, May 23, 1915 VETERANS WILL BE SERVED ALONG LINE OF MARCH Hospitable Richmond People Agree to Serve Light Refreshments to Aged Men During Parade The reunion committee has asked that the Daughters of the Confederacy of Richmond request all those having homes on Franklin Street, from Adams Street to the old college grounds, along the line of march June 3, to have on their lawns a table with ice water, cold tea or lemonade, and sandwiches, to serve to the veterans only. Responses have come to this… Read more »