VCU to start demolition this spring for $253M art and innovation center at Broad and Belvidere

vcu arts innovation building rendering 2023

A rendering of VCU’s upcoming CoStar Center for Arts and Innovation, which is planned to be built at the corner of Broad and Belvidere streets. (BizSense file)

Visible work is set to begin this spring on VCU’s next anchor project at the intersection of Broad and Belvidere streets.

The university expects to start demolition of the roughly acre-sized site for its upcoming 213,000-square-foot CoStar Center for Arts and Innovation after it holds a ground-breaking ceremony in April, university vice president Meredith Weiss said in an interview last week.

The $253 million building will be constructed across the street from VCU’s Institute for Contemporary Art, and is intended to help more firmly establish the university’s presence at the major intersection with a sizable facility dedicated to programs the university is known for.

“It’s a game changer,” Weiss said. “It brings our nationally prominent art and innovation programs to the busiest intersection in Richmond and connects us to the city.”

The new building will be a consolidated home for arts programs and include facilities for medicine, business and engineering students. The building is planned to feature classrooms, rehearsal spaces, an auditorium, sound studio, prop shop and costume lab, among other facilities.

Though VCU had previously targeted fall 2023 to start the project, the university is sticking to plans to open the facility in 2027, Weiss said.

Hourigan has been selected to serve as the project’s general contractor. William Rawn Associates was tapped to handle the building’s architectural design.

About $232 million in state funding will cover most of the project cost. CoStar, the real estate data giant with sizable operations in downtown Richmond, will contribute $18 million toward the project. The number of stories the building would have is still being determined.

The upcoming building is anticipated to be among the top three largest academic facilities at VCU, along with the three-building School of Dentistry (a 272,000-square-foot facility slated to be replaced with a brand-new construction project) and the 220,000-square-foot McGlothlin Medical Education Center that’s also on the MCV campus.

The project site is an assemblage of three university-owned parcels that consist of a now-demolished gas station site at 535 W. Broad St., the vacant former RamBikes building at 201 N. Belvidere St., and a vacant restaurant building at 501 W. Broad St.

VCU paid $6.3 million between 2009 and 2017 to acquire the assemblage, according to online property records.

The project has evolved in cost since 2019, when it was approved by the Board of Visitors at an estimated cost of $181 million. VCU in 2023 adjusted the price tag upward due to multiple factors.

The anticipated spring timeline for the start of demolition comes about a year after CoStar announced it would put its name on the center and support construction.

CoStar CEO and founder Andy Florance, who is also a member of VCU’s Board of Visitors, said support of the project lines up with the company’s desire to build relationships with the university’s students, particularly in the arts.

“Our engagement with the graduates and the interns is really important to us. Our business has evolved from being a pure data analytics business to being much more engaging with consumers,” Florance told BizSense. “I do view the future of technology and the internet as having an important design element.”

CoStar opened its Richmond office in 2016 and has about 1,500 local employees. The company is underway on construction of an expanded riverfront campus expected to be completed in early 2026. Florance said the company has 300 to 400 locally based employees with art and media skills, the kind of people who will study at the future art and innovation center and a segment of the company he wants to grow.

“If you asked me 10 years ago would I be employing hundreds of graphic artists, musicians, video editors, voice talent…I never would have imagined it, but we are,” he said.

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Bruce Milam
Bruce Milam
23 days ago

CoStar has been a revelation in Richmond. Imagine if you will how this came to pass almost solely because of the North Carolina legislature’s failure to pass legislation protecting the rights of gays and transexuals. All of this development and employment would have occurred in Charlotte instead. Thank you North Carolina!

George MacGuffin
George MacGuffin
22 days ago
Reply to  Bruce Milam

“Imagine if you will…”
One would need to be in Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone to buy into this preposterous logic.

Thank you indeed NC… for not capitulating.

Lee Thomas
Lee Thomas
21 days ago

Responding to both Bruce Milam and George MacGuffin: the North Carolina laws in question did not simply “fail to protect” transgender and lgbtq people, but actively discriminated against transgender people, in a way that was disruptive and irrational: Having had trans employees, coworkers, and tenants over the years, my observation is this: if someone has fully transitioned and has the appearance of their preferred gender, making them use gender segregated public facilities designated for their birth gender is far more unsettling than simply leaving them alone. If they actually comply with the law, it makes a public spectacle where none… Read more »

George MacGuffin
George MacGuffin
21 days ago
Reply to  Lee Thomas

Blah, blah, blah, virtue smokescreen. Yawn. “North Carolina legislators passed House Bill 2, a controversial law preventing transgender people from using the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity in government buildings. The bill caused a national uproar and was subsequently repealed. The U.S. Supreme Court opted not to take up a school board’s appeal over the rights of transgender students to use the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity. It also solidified legal precedent established by the lower court protecting the rights of transgender students — including in North Carolina.” What does this have to do with the… Read more »

Lee Thomas
Lee Thomas
21 days ago

I’m failing to see how these two things are connected, beyond your response to the previous comment. North Carolina legislators, by virtue of drafting and debating and passing the bill WERE wasting taxpayer dollars and resources. They could have been doing something useful rather than trying to scapegoat a group that makes up less than 3 percent of the population. And yes, you’re correct they did partially capitulate, contrary to your original statement, by repealing and/or allowing portions of the bill to sunset. Where they didn’t backtrack, they lost in court. As for the $232 million in state funding? Yeah,… Read more »

Shawn Harper
Shawn Harper
20 days ago
Reply to  Lee Thomas

I will point out that rational people esp don’t tend to care about who uses the BOYS’ bathroom, which this case was mostly about originally, if I recall….

Too much ideological irrationality was what led to the criminality of Fairfax school leadership, which led in part to Youngkin being elected, in an attempt, no doubt imperfect, to rebalance the scales.

These crimes do not support our narrative, so they must be concealed!!! Said every ideologue ever.

George MacGuffin
George MacGuffin
20 days ago
Reply to  Lee Thomas

I will not oblige your absurd attempt to stake some moral high ground built on rationality (of all things) on a matter that involves a person’s literal inability to accept their gender forcing others to accept their gender.
Quod erat demonstrandum.

Shawn Harper
Shawn Harper
20 days ago

This is also some interesting color to the discussion that Bruce has initiated. So +1.

One thing I will return to: I share Bruce’s enthusiasm for CoStar not only moving operations to VA, but also siteing them in downtown Richmond.

Now, if I were a resident of Fairfax Co., I might think a bit more like you do….

Shawn Harper
Shawn Harper
20 days ago
Reply to  Lee Thomas

Well, other than accusing George of something he may or may not be interested in, Thank You for giving some more NUANCE into a situation that has existed no doubt throughout time and is being rather ineptly dealt with by almost everyone. I think people of good will want to make things easier for all people, and no one should want extra stress or even harm to other people being content and productive in positive ways. I only caution that if laws go too far in the other direction, there will be negative consequences. We have to temper our good… Read more »

Peter James
Peter James
22 days ago
Reply to  Bruce Milam

Another fun fact about CoStar selecting Richmond in the process of eschewing Charlotte: A number of years ago, CEO Andy Florence had visited Richmond to attend the annual Folk Festival and was so taken by the city and its potential that he kept RVA firmly in his mind as a good location for business. It became a no-brainer for him and for CoStar that, when Charlotte was off the table, Richmond was the next batter up – and the rest has been history. After decades of the Queen City of the Carolinas being a black hole that sucked the life… Read more »

Last edited 22 days ago by Peter James
George MacGuffin
George MacGuffin
22 days ago
Reply to  Peter James

“About $232 million in state funding will cover most of the project cost. CoStar, the real estate data giant with sizable operations in downtown Richmond, will contribute $18 million toward the project.”

I’ll interrupt today’s scheduled propaganda programming with a fact: Thank you Virginia tax payers.

Shawn Harper
Shawn Harper
22 days ago

You may be on to something here — but it won’t make the Terry M./Stoney cheerleaders happy.

Thank you Chinese Scam artists for bilking VA Terry M. and VA taxpayers for all the fake Chinese shell cos making “investments” in VA, much like Terry’s Electric Vehicle company that he started so he could run as an “Experienced Businessman”

Peter James
Peter James
22 days ago
Reply to  Shawn Harper

This brings to mind the whole Tranlin saga, in which said Chinese pulp and paper company had “committed” to investing upwards of $2 billion in a huge paper manufacturing facility in Chesterfield, just outside of the city about a decade ago, supposedly bringing with it some 2,000 jobs. Are we thinking about the same thing here?

Shawn Harper
Shawn Harper
21 days ago
Reply to  Peter James

Yes, but it was several different things. They are kind of a blur now.

Shawn Harper
Shawn Harper
22 days ago
Reply to  Peter James

I would more ascribe CoStar’s decision to other things. (I don’t KNOW of course, but I don’t really trust companies to be totally honest about their decisions and take their narratives with grains of salt.)

YES, it could be that they liked Richmond better than Charlotte because of “Fun-Metrics” — but maybe they just thought Charlotte was now overvalued and Richmond undervalued — THAT is their game, yes?

Michael Morgan-Dodson
Michael Morgan-Dodson
22 days ago
Reply to  Shawn Harper

And state gave a better financial package to Co-Star over NC/Charlotte I am guessing too!

Shawn Harper
Shawn Harper
20 days ago

Being from NYS originally, I have long noted that the more big govt a state gets, the more they have to offer incentives to get people to go there (Research the Buffalo Billions scandal that led to several people in the Cuomo adm. going to jail, one of whom I used to pass in hallways and never liked, and ALMOST reached Andrew himself) which is just fine for the political class, because they are able overtax the people and businesses they don’t care about and give the money to people like Elon Musk (until he leaves the reservation, of course)… Read more »

Peter James
Peter James
22 days ago
Reply to  Shawn Harper

In all likelihood, yes. Mind you, I should have been a little clearer in my post, the point of which is that the fact that Florence’s visit here several years prior to bringing CoStar to Richmond influenced him in that he kept the city on his radar. Was it a decisive factor? Hardly. But that the River City even made it onto his and CoStar’s radar to begin with may well (by his own account) have started with his visit and attendance at the Folk Festival. It’s a fun little aside, not meant to be taken as a “critical” metric… Read more »

Shawn Harper
Shawn Harper
21 days ago
Reply to  Peter James

Thank you for the thoughtful clarification. Some of the people who tend to agree with me on this site seem to think I am too “combative” but from my point of view I am just trying to swat down soft or deluded thinking. Terry M. made a lot of noise about how the latest Democratic talking points of the hour were going to hurt NC economically — but by all measures NC has outperformed VA since those days, regardless of all the noise about trans people and I am starting to get a little sus of Bruce up there every… Read more »

Peter James
Peter James
21 days ago
Reply to  Shawn Harper

Well said, Shawn. I particularly agree with your point that economic competition is serious business – as you said, not merely akin to some little basketball rivalry. It does attain an international reach. NC has really capitalized on this in ways that — outside of NOVA (and that’s more the DC impact, obviously) — our fair Commonwealth (particularly RVA) has not. One more thought: NC has outpaced VA not just since the days when Terry M was in the Governor’s Mansion. The Tar Heel State has outpaced us by leaps and bounds since at LEAST the 1980s. Using a sports… Read more »

Shawn Harper
Shawn Harper
21 days ago
Reply to  Peter James

Thank you for broadening my horizons!

Yes, I remember in the early 90s in upstate NY there were headhunters in the major hospital I worked in trying to lure nurses to NC — we’ll double your pay, give you better weather AND houses are not expensive!!

I thought this must be a pretty good place.

Poor NC

https://www.cbs17.com/news/local-news/raleigh-is-second-hottest-real-estate-market-in-the-us-durham-is-fourth-according-to-rankings/

Shawn Harper
Shawn Harper
22 days ago
Reply to  Bruce Milam

Well that may be true in this instance — though I really don’t think Corps do this sort of thing for real — they tend to virtue signal if whatever decision they make doesn’t cost them any.

Plus, I thought this was just a transexual issue, not a gay/lesbian issue. If so, please don’t cluster all issues together.

Regarding Richmond/NC, I have long been a Richmond booster, but NC has been kicking our butts these past years, so, I wouldn’t be thanking NC all things considered.

Glad Costar is here, and malice toward none.

Lee Thomas
Lee Thomas
21 days ago
Reply to  Shawn Harper

They also passed a bill banning cities and counties from passing local lgbtq non-discrimination ordinances at or around the same time as the bathroom bill. At the time, federal housing law did not prevent landlords from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Technically it is only a matter of executive order/interpretation (of the Fair Housing Act) on the part of the Biden administration which currently prevents this form of housing discrimination today. This can be easily overturned, returning the issue to the states. While NC localities are now allowed to pass their own antidiscrimination ordinances (the… Read more »

Last edited 21 days ago by Lee Thomas
Shawn Harper
Shawn Harper
20 days ago
Reply to  Lee Thomas

Thank you for the legal education. I did not follow it closely. I will only say that the main individual in question sounded a LOT more reasonable than the activists did. My heart and energy always goes out to people who find it hard to fit in with groups, or love themselves as they are, and that even extends to those who are, let’s say, “Punk Rock” or worse. By this I mean people who seem compelled to do some level of harm to others, from annoyance on up. I heard the high school student who was the center of… Read more »

David Adler
David Adler
23 days ago

Look like a beautiful building and certainly a fine addition to that busy intersection.

Brian King
Brian King
22 days ago

Meanwhile VCU cuts teaching positions, hires adjunct faculty and artists who graduated from VCU are given the bum’s rush. No support whatsoever from VCU or The Commonwealth. This boondoggle will catapult VCU as the #2 Art school to #1 over UCLA – big whoop. By the way tell us what innovations are coming out of this proposed facility? Maybe some AI hucksterism? A giant waste of money unless you’re a Dean or Chairman of the Art school. Shame on VCU and the Legislators responsible for this.

Shawn Harper
Shawn Harper
22 days ago
Reply to  Brian King

There’s ONE good thing I can say for having a great Art dept, as opposed to a mediocre or bad one —- attracting highly creative and innovative people is often a good thing — esp if they eventually decide to apply it to a practical direction and not just drawing pictures or writing Artist Statements.

Peter James
Peter James
22 days ago
Reply to  Shawn Harper

Agreed, Shawn. So often we hear of how companies are looking for creative, innovative, talented young people as a base from which those companies might select their workforce. Particularly as you noted, if those kids coming out of an upper-echelon program make practical use of their talents and creativity, and if that program happens to be VCU – perhaps that helps the powers-that-be who do business recruitment land a surprise company relo or expansion here. Every little advantage in the highly competitive world of economic growth and development (meaning, from a perspective of how cities/regions compete to attract businesses and… Read more »

Shawn Harper
Shawn Harper
21 days ago
Reply to  Peter James

Hooray! Glad I have some agreement on THIS issue. Also helps that it attracts people from outside of VA to a program, and doesn’t graduate them with tons of debt like SCAD or RISD do. People can downvote all they want, but my undergraduate degree is technically BFA, which I drifted into because I was disenchanted with the academic fields I thought I wanted to master, and I know a bit about what I am talking about. Indeed, I was friends with and even the landlord to a guy who has long been on the VCU Art faculty who was… Read more »

Michael Morgan-Dodson
Michael Morgan-Dodson
22 days ago

I am all for the new school building but this article sounds similar to a press release for the ICA. It was going to a game changer too. The mini-Guggenheim of Contemporary Art for Richmond. It was going to attract budding artists from around world, have resident artists, and attract visitors from across the country too. It did not make it 5 years as an independant museum before it had to be folded back into the university and $500,000 pumped into it to get artists interested in it again. If one is interested they are hiring for a director for… Read more »

Shawn Harper
Shawn Harper
21 days ago

Thank you. I always saw the hype about it as almost designed to be an insultor of intelligence. And the gushing about the Architecture, even though it is pleasant INSIDE, yet another Emperor Has No Clothes thing for people trying to signal that they are more intelligent than they actually are tend to nod their heads to. I MIGHT be more interested, if I were considered qualified, which would not be, to head Qatari Arts. Yes, it would be restrictive — but it has long been noted that Total Freedom often is not the best environment for Great Art Making… Read more »

George MacGuffin
George MacGuffin
22 days ago

7.1% of cost (minus guaranteed overruns) covered by CoStar, but incorrigible construction cheerleaders fall over themselves heaping praise on the CoStar monopoly. Unreal, but expected.

Shawn Harper
Shawn Harper
21 days ago

CoStar is a monopoly?

If so, good.

As Peter Thiel famously said, all happy cos are monopolies pretending they are not monopolies, and all non-monopolies “We are the only Korean-Jamacan Fast Casual Fusion Restaurant in the Chicago area!” that pretend to be monopolies are unhappy companies and are bad investments.

George MacGuffin
George MacGuffin
21 days ago
Reply to  Shawn Harper

I’m convinced that your surname’s etymological history comes by way of the intransitive verb.

Shawn Harper
Shawn Harper
20 days ago

Well, your surname seems to be from a similar geography, if not the particular meaning of the verb you are talking about — but let me please point out that the thing I was harping about was —– your very harping on about something!!!

Glass houses.

As far as my personality goes, I seem to have less tolerance for complaining about things than most other people.

Perhaps I should work on that.