100-unit apartment complex could take down four 1800s historic buildings

Source: NBC12
Source: NBC12
Updated: Mar. 16, 2018 at 11:15 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - A new, 100-unit apartment complex could go up just outside VCU's Monroe Campus.

The developer, J.D. Lewis Construction, has submitted plans to the city outlining a four-story building on the corner of West Cary and South Laurel Streets. The first level would be retail. The top floors would have mostly one-bedroom apartments. A parking lot will also be constructed on the property.

It's a prime location - with VCU, the Altria theater and the downtown area all in walking distance. The project would clear out about an acre of land, including taking down four historic brick homes and buildings.

"Being a student, my viewpoint is that we need it," said Tayziana Booker, a VCU freshman who says off-campus housing isn't particularly easy to come by.

The historic, brick buildings date back to as early as the 1830s.

"This was originally a grocery store, and then for many, many years, it was Harvey Hardware," said Charles Woodson, the Oregon Hill Neighborhood Association president, as he motioned to the brick building that was most recently a Sweet Frog.

Woodson says the OHNA is willing to welcome the development, as long as the buildings stay.

"We want to see these houses conserved," he said.

The traditional 19th century buildings are on the National Register of Historic Places and feature intricate period design. The corner building was a pharmacy. Some of the other homes were built by legendary Oregon Hill architect Benjamin Green.

"It's just a great example of an early 19th century house that's just crying to be saved," continued Woodson. "These are very solid buildings…Beautiful, intact."

Woodson suggested keeping the historic buildings and converting them as part of the new development. He said there's a lot of room for the rest of the apartments in the rest of the lot. Further, Woodson said the builder would be able to take advantage of huge federal and state tax credits for keeping the historic buildings.

"This deserves to be saved. [These homes] are a gateway to Oregon Hill. This is a gateway to downtown Richmond," he said. "We're hoping that they will reconsider. We're willing to make concessions, and support maybe a higher height."

NBC12 was not able to get in touch with the developer at the time of this writing for a comment.

Neighbors are planning to protest the removal of these historic buildings Sunday, at 4 p.m., on the corner of West Cary and South Laurel Streets.

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