Virginia Commonwealth University’s takeover of West Grace Street continues.
The school has plans for more than $83 million worth of development in the six-block stretch between Belvidere Street and Ryland Street. The planned projects include two student-housing buildings, a seven-story office and classroom tower, and possibly a retail computer store in the next three years.
Brian Ohlinger, head of facilities at VCU, said the 79,000-square-foot office and classroom tower at 912 W. Grace St. would house the school’s global education program, its media relations department and some faculty offices. The VCU Real Estate Foundation owns the site.
Phil Roper is developing the $15.2 million tower for VCU. He and developer George Emerson are working on a neighboring 11-story, $20 million student apartment tower at 900 W. Grace St.
Ohlinger said that the school’s focus on Grace Street was laid out in the school’s 2004 master plan but that the rash of construction has also been driven by opportunity.
“The office and classroom building, for example, that was kind of a target of opportunity,” he said. “We don’t have any say when a private developer wants to build something. But we decided to take advantage of [Roper and Emerson] being there to build something along with it and take advantage of low construction costs.”
Roper said the joint development on the tower meant both entities could save money on materials and infrastructure costs.
“We gave them a number that was a whole lot less than what it would be if they were to do it themselves,” Roper said.
He offered brick for two buildings as an example. “You get into a different price range when you order it all together rather than separately.”
Walter Parks Architect designed the planned VCU office building. KBS is the general contractor. The project is waiting on approval for its plan of development, according to city records. The school submitted the plan Feb. 22.
Ohlinger said the bottom floor of the office tower would include 5,000 square feet of retail space.
The school is also planning two student housing buildings at the old Ukrop’s store site at 1024 W. Grace St. VCU wants a 250-bed building and a 150-bed building on the 2.4-acre parcel at a combined cost of about $36 million.
“With the two new projects, we’ll have approximately 6,300 beds,” he said. “Our goal is to have 7,000.”
The school is accepting proposals for the design and building contract on the student housing projects. Proposals are due May 16, Ohlinger said.
At 920 W. Grace St., a vacant 2,800-square-foot retail space that once housed a Little Ceasars Pizza is slated to become a VCU-run computer store. The school had a technology shop in the student commons that sold computer equipment and software, but it closed a few years, Ohlinger said.
“We’re getting the final recommendation on that soon, but, if it goes ahead, we hope to have it open by August,” he said.
Ohlinger said the renovations on the former pizza shop would cost about $300,000. The VCU Real Estate Foundation owns the building.
All this is on top of the forthcoming $32 million Institute for Contemporary Art at the corner of West Broad and North Belvidere streets. That project is being funded by a capital campaign that has raised about half of its goal.