It's a common metamorphosis in the Bottom, but this is not just another routine renovation, says John Woodward, director of the city's department of economic development.
"This is a watershed development, I would say now, because it represents the last exodus, the final exodus of that old industrial use" with the exception of the former Reynolds Metals Co.'s site, he says. "It really represents the end of an era down there."
And the beginning of a new one, Woodward points out, with the massive "adaptive re-use" taking place in the area.
Richmond's oldest and largest architectural firm, Baskervill & Son, is the anchor tenant for Canal Crossing, which will cost $9 million to $10 million. It will be moving its 108 employees out of cramped quarters behind the Martin Agency in Shockoe Slip.
Baskervill is also the firm designing and decorating the 108,000-square-foot space turning a cavernous brick-walled warehouse into spacious offices, including a tall glass atrium. Even the old loading docks will become little terraces for cafes.
"The whole area is just going to have a facelift of unimaginable proportions," says Lauren McGraw, marketing director for Advantis Real Estate Services Co. Construction will begin in summer or fall of 2003.
Advantis' partner in the project is Fulton Hill Properties, which is also seeking to develop the neighboring Lady Byrd Hat Co. The gray brick building hunkers on a massive stone foundation on the canal front near 14th Street and has been vacant for decades.
Representatives of Advantis and Fulton Hill are loath to discuss what specific tenants may be moving in. A sunny architectural rendering posted outside envisions the building as a complex of restaurants, offices and retail stores, teeming with tourists. The buzz is that a music venue is a possibility as well, but developers will not confirm or deny it.
Woodward plays it close to the vest too. "Certainly the area around the canal is conducive to a significant entertainment venue," he says, "and that's the kind of use we'd like to see down there."
Melissa Scott Sinclair