Richmond city council to vote on new apartments

By Rachel DePompa - bio | email | facebook
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – A plan in Church Hill to turn an old school into apartments goes before the Richmond city council tonight. Some in the neighborhood, welcome the development at the now boarded up building. Others have concerns about the scale of the project.

The historic Chimborazo School building is at the center of the debate. The city's planning commission even recommends that city council members vote against the proposal for this property, but several council members tell me they plan to support it.

Built in 1905 this was a school for first through seventh graders. It's been empty now for several years. Developer Margaret Freund wants to turn the vacant building into apartments. She's asking the city for special permission to build 50 units.

"We're talking about putting in 50 units in an area, in a property that's zoned for 21. And that could result in even more than 50 cars," said Jay Grattan.

Jay Grattan owns a home turned into condos just up the street.

"My biggest concern is the parking," she said.

She welcomes the new development, but does not support its size and scale. She also says giving one developer a special exception isn't fair to other property owners invested in Church Hill.

"The only argument I heard from the developer for the project was that in order to make her loan work she needed this many of units. In other words basically, I made a bad investment. Bail me out. I need to make some money," said Grattan.

The developer has secured a parking lot from a nearby mosque for her potential residents to prevent crowding on the street. And not everyone in the neighborhood worries about the project's impact.

"We were so excited someone's going to come in and renovate it? It was boarded up. Now it's going to make the neighborhood, it's going to make it look very vibrant," said Church Hill resident Melvin Raoof.

Councilman Doug Conner says despite a recommendation from the city's planning commission to deny the proposal, it will have his full support.

"I see no indications with problems with parking whatsoever. We need to bring places to live, affordable places," Conner said.

City council will have the final say from its meeting at City Hall.

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