Developer under contract to buy downtown YMCA property


The building on Franklin and Foushee Streets has housed the downtown YMCA since 1942. (Jonathan Spiers Photos)

After nearly 80 years at its downtown home base, the Greater Richmond YMCA is in the process of getting a few new roommates to anchor for a proposed mixed-use redevelopment.

The non-profit organization is working with developers George Emerson and Phil Roper on a project to expand the inner city building at 2 W. Franklin St. and at least some of the adjacent parking lots to include apartments in line with the market.

The developers are under contract to purchase the lots that fill most of the city block that includes the main office. An additional Y-owned parking lot across Franklin is included in the deal that Emerson confirmed to BizSense this week.

The downtown branch would continue to operate in the building, with Y’s corporate offices being relocated to make way for some of the apartments. A location for the offices has not yet been determined, said YMCA spokesman Barry Saunders.

“We are delighted that this historic building, which has served the community so well for 80 years, is undergoing a major renovation as part of the overall project,” said Saunders, adding that the store would remain the centerpiece of the building.

A parking space behind the building would be part of a renovation project with additional apartments.

“We also think it’s pretty cool how downtown Y is being brought back to its community roots in a very modern way as the location will again offer residences alongside our programs,” Saunders said, referring to Y’s history of providing accommodation. He said his office was in one of the building’s former dormitories.

Opened in 1942, the building on Franklin Street has served as the nonprofit organization’s home base since 1854. The four-story, 98,000-square-foot building is home to a variety of facilities, including a gym, pool, and squash courts that were made from racquetball courts during a renovation in 2018.

A few years earlier, the Y had planned to expand the building worth $ 20 million, but abandoned that idea in 2014. The extension would have filled the parking lot at Foushee and Grace, where the Y demolished three buildings after purchasing that property in 2008.

Emerson said the project is still in the design phase but would likely include new construction in that parking lot, if not the Y’s other lots. The nonprofit also owns the parking lots along Adams Street on the block, in addition to the parking lot across the street Franklin.

The city recently valued the Y building at $ 6.85 million, real estate records show. Nine other parcels that make up the 2.2 acre collection of Y are valued at $ 3.44 million, bringing the total value of the property to approximately $ 10.3 million.

A cornerstone indicates that the building replaced the previous YMCA locations from 1854.

“The YMCA will remain present there, but we will rehabilitate the building and build it in the parking lot,” said Emerson, adding that he plans to finish the drawings in the coming weeks. He hopes the project will start next spring.

George Emerson

George Emerson

“We have been working on this project for a couple of years and it is only just beginning to materialize,” he said. “The Y has had several plans over the past few years, and I think the YMCA is one of those organizations that we’re trying to work with as best we can. I think it will be (a project) that everyone will enjoy. “

Other recent Emerson and Roper developments include Moore’s Lake in Chester and the Vue at Westchester Commons Apartments. You are working on the Y project with Richmond developer Tom Papa and KBS vice chairman Dennis Lynch, who Emerson said are investors in the project. Emerson and Lynch were working together on a mixed-use conversion of a former office building at 6 N. Sixth St.

“We look forward to getting it going,” said Emerson. “I think Tom Papa will be a good addition to us. We’ve never done a development together so I think he’ll be fun doing that with him too. “

The YMCA congregation includes a parking lot across from the building across Franklin Street.

Emerson said it was too early to estimate project costs or the total number or size of apartments. South Carolina-based Allison Ramsey is the architect of the project.

Saunders said the project would include renovations to some of the Y’s facilities, including new locker rooms and group training studios, as well as improvements to wellness rooms and weight rooms. He said a dollar number for these improvements is not yet available.

“I think it will be a really great addition to the neighborhood and it will continue a long tradition of serving our community well from this location,” Saunders said. “We have the feeling that we are positioning ourselves here to further develop our offers in order to better reflect and serve the needs of the community – hopefully for another 80 years.”

The project comes while other movements are being made in the neighborhood.

Directly across from Franklin, the centuries-old Second Baptist Church is being considered for demolition by the owner of the adjacent Jefferson Hotel. And across Foushee from the Y, a half-acre parking lot was recently purchased by a Philadelphia-based company for $ 2.87 million.


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