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Who Wants a Cookie Factory?

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"We really don't know," says JoAnne Snyder, senior director of human resources for Interbake, which was giving tours of the facility to prospective buyers last week. The company's fielded about 15 inquiries from real-estate brokers and developers, she says.

In early March, Interbake announced plans to close the factory and move its cookie-baking operations to Warren County by 2006 into a new, more efficient $40 million production facility.

The day the news hit, potential buyers started calling John Woodward, the city's economic development director. "It's a very well-known structure," Woodward says.

The factory's main building, constructed in 1928, was hopelessly out of date. "The building itself reached functional obsolescence as a manufacturing facility arguably 20 years ago," Woodward says. Its multistory design and low ceilings, at 12- to 14-feet high, were incompatible with modern manufacturing, he says.

So in two years, one of the city's main thoroughfares will have a vacancy: a 240,000-square-foot building on seven acres, assessed at $927,500, according to city records. Interbake declined to disclose the listing price for the property.

It will be one more change for the area around the intersection of Boulevard and Broad, which recently got a facelift — last year, the city installed new sidewalks and a grassy median to replace the horizontal parking spaces that split the Boulevard. "It's an area in dramatic transition," Woodward says.

So who will snap it up?

Next door to the west of the factory is the Science Museum and Children's Museum. Officials have considered relocating the Aviation Museum — located near Richmond International Airport — to the Broad Street campus.

Is the museum interested in the Interbake site? "Currently there's no plan for it," says spokeswoman Nancy Tait, "but if somebody wanted to donate it — sure."

There are other options too. Farther west, the former Rehrig shopping-cart factory at Lombardy and Leigh streets became a Kroger. To the northeast of the Interbake factory, developer Louis Salomonsky turned the E. M. Todd ham factory at Leigh Street and Hermitage Road into an apartment building.

Whatever happens, Interbake's Snyder hopes it can become "a real viable property for the city of Richmond."

"One thing's safe to say it will not be," Woodward says, "is another manufacturing facility." — jason Roop



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