Housing nonprofit completes 86-unit Cool Lane Commons project

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Executive Director Allison Bogdanovic in front of Virginia Supportive Housing’s Cool Lane Commons apartment building, a conversion of the former Seven Hills Health Care Center. (Jonathan Spiers photos)

Despite challenges with the building and obstacles from the pandemic, a local housing nonprofit’s multimillion-dollar transformation of an old nursing home into low-income apartments finished on schedule and nearly on budget.

Virginia Supportive Housing has completed Cool Lane Commons, an 86-unit conversion of the former Seven Hills Health Care Center at 1900 Cool Lane off Mechanicsville Turnpike.

The nonprofit, which provides housing and support services aimed at combating homelessness, received its certificate of occupancy in January for the building.

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The renovation was designed by Arnold Design Studio and completed by KBS.

Since opening March 1, 32 of the apartments are now occupied and eight more are in process, said Allison Bogdanovic, VSH’s executive director. The one-bedroom units and six studios are low-income housing, meaning for residents earning 50 percent or less of the area median income, and permanent supportive housing for formerly homeless adults.

The building also houses VSH’s administrative offices, which have moved from Forest Office Park in western Henrico. It also includes a neighborhood resource center that’s shared with nearby Faith Community Baptist Church, and amenities such as a community room, fitness room and computer and phone rooms that Bogdanovic said go beyond what’s typically provided at VSH’s properties.

“This is an incredibly large building for us,” she said. “It’s about 90,000 square feet; we typically have a 40,000- to 50,000-square-foot building. And because we worked with what was here, we have some other creative uses, because we had the space for it.”

Of the new headquarters, she added, “We probably have 50 team members who are headquartered here now, and it’s just fantastic that we own our own office.”

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The administrative offices provide space for 50 VSH staffers.

Years in the making, the project involved coordination from Henrico County and Richmond, as the 6-acre property straddles the county-city border southeast of the Interstate 64 interchange. Separate approvals from each government were finalized in 2019, and a groundbreaking ceremony kicked off the project in 2022.

Bogdanovic said the project kept to its schedule and remained close to its projected $23 million budget. She said the final cost could come out closer to $24 million.

Funding came from local, state, federal and private sources. The project involved low-income housing tax credits from Virginia Housing and Community Development Block Grant funding from the city and Henrico.

The units range from 500 square feet and up, with rents ranging from 30 percent of a resident’s household income to a minimum of $50 a month. Bogdanovic said most rents at VSH properties come out to $230 to $300 a month.

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The units range from 500 square feet and up.

Thirteen of the apartments are compliant with ADA accessibility standards, and all of the units are eligible for project-based vouchers through the Richmond Redevelopment & Housing Authority.

KBS was the general contractor on the project, and Christiansburg-based Arnold Design Studio was the architect. The conversion was built to Earthcraft Gold standards and faced several challenges along the way, Bogdanovic said.

“It was in such horrible shape, it wasn’t going to be an easy fix,” she said. “Everything was stripped out of it. The basement had flooded.”

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A groundbreaking ceremony kicked off the project two years ago. (BizSense file)

Adding to structural challenges was the project’s timing in the midst of the pandemic.

“It was definitely not an easy time to be doing this,” she said, noting cost increases and supply shortages that resulted. “We’ll be able to say this was one project that came through all that. And, with the pandemic and everything that happened at that time, I think a lot more people became aware of how deadly homelessness can be, so there’s a different conversation happening now.”

A ribbon-cutting to formally open the apartments is scheduled June 11.

VSH’s other area properties include the New Clay House apartments rehab in the city’s Carver neighborhood. It’s also working with Richmond Behavioral Health Authority on an 83-unit building in the Highland Park area.

POSTED IN Nonprofits

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Deon Hamner
Deon Hamner
15 days ago

Mrs. Bodganovic and team deserve praise for such a lovely transformation of this building while servicing the community. Some people need a hand up not a hand out. Wish the best to VSH and those tenants.

Peter James
Peter James
15 days ago
Reply to  Deon Hamner

Couldn’t agree more! Kudos to everyone involved for making this important and greatly needed development happen.

Nick Feucht
Nick Feucht
15 days ago

This project truly impressive. The article only barely scratches the surface of the challenges VSH faced. The building had been trapped in a nightmarish layered purgatory for decades, a personal favorite being the conversion of the building into a time capsule by welding of the doors shut.

The story of how VSH worked through all the challenges-ownership, jurisdiction, financing, construction will leave you impressed. And so will the end product.

John Lindner
John Lindner
14 days ago

Congratulations to all involved. This is truly something worth celebrating. I love it when dogged perseverance like this pays off!

Michael Morgan-Dodson
Michael Morgan-Dodson
14 days ago

Such a relief to see the site brought back to use after Wilder (mayoral) Administration packed the old hospital authority board who then ran the nursing home into the financial abyss and cost it its Medicare funding. Original built for retiring city employees and then open to public, it is nice to see the building serving the community again. Kudos to VSH.