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UR Plans Downtown Legal Campus

The idea is to be close to federal courts and the General Assembly. Although planning is still in the early stages, UR officials recently contacted the state about the availability of the former Murphy Hotel at Eighth and Broad streets.

"They were interested in finding out about the property — about the building itself, the size of the building and general parameters of the building," says Susan S. Pollard, director of communications at the Virginia Department of General Services.

The department manages the state-owned Murphy Hotel, built in 1911, which has been embroiled in controversy of late. The state has expressed its intentions to demolish it to make room for parking and a new administrative building. Preservationists say the hotel is too historically significant to destroy and insist that the state make the property available to private developers for reuse.

The building isn't designated as surplus property by the state, Pollard says, which means it isn't for sale.

The university also has considered other properties, Smolla says, including the Berry-Burk building at 525 East Grace St. He says there's no timetable for when the law center would be up and running, but he hopes it would be within two years. UR has hired Richmond development firm Macfarlane Partners Group to manage the project.

There are also issues such as transportation — connecting students living downtown to the West End campus efficiently.

Mayor L. Douglas Wilder's office has been in contact with university officials about locating a legal campus downtown and favors its proximity to the courts and Capitol Square.

"We're going to be doing what we can. [Senior Policy Adviser] Paul Goldman has talked with Mr. Smolla at the university," Wilder says. "They should be close to the Capitol and the courts center. And there are ways by which that could take place." — Scott Bass

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