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Who Owns the Bottom?

Here's who stands to win big if the mayor’s plan for Shockoe goes forward.

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Should the numbers work and City Council agree, a new neighborhood built around a baseball stadium will rise in Shockoe Bottom — and where there is development, there is money to be made. How much and by whom is still unclear. But outside a few city-owned parcels, much of the land in and around the planned development lies in private hands.

Developers David White and Louis Salomonsky and their company, Historic Housing, own property and land with an assessed value of $83 million dollars, a portfolio with assets far greater than any other property owner in the neighborhood. Earlier this year, White and Salomonsky added to their Shockoe portfolio when they purchased Weiman’s Bakery after it closed. That property falls in the center of the footprint of the proposed ballpark.

On Monday, when the mayor announced the plan, he named White as the development force behind the planned 750 apartments. (Jones conspicuously didn’t mention Salomonsky, who has a — err — history here, but is very much involved.)

White’s son, Brian White, was on hand at the announcement. He told Style that the firm is excited about the development because it “gives the neighborhood legs” by ensuring growth that’s so far taken place organically and raising property values.

“Obviously the idea is that you give this neighborhood the foundation that it needs,” he says. “It increases the value of the entire neighborhood — our investments included.”

But don’t call the project a handout to developers, White says. The apartments Historic Housing has committed to develop are far riskier than its previous investments. White says the only role the city is playing in the private element is development of the crucial infrastructure that actually makes building in the flood plain possible.

“Nobody’s given us anything,” White says. “We had to buy the land to develop and it’s a much riskier deal than most.”

If the deal goes forward, the private developers enlisted by the city will buy the land and carve it up among themselves for the planned projects, including the Kroger, Hyatt Hotel, apartments and parking garage.

The city will own the ballpark and concourse and is budgeting $4.4 million for land acquisition. Aside from the city, which owns four parcels within the project’s proposed footprint, the biggest property owner is Loving’s Produce. Owner Gary Loving declines to say if he has signed letters of intent to sell, but says he has been in talks with the city on the project. It’s uncertain how much the family stands to make on their holdings in the Bottom, which have a total assessed value of $7 million.

“I’m not going to say anything else,” Loving says.

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