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Ham Factory To Be Apartments

It'll take about $12 million and one year to renovate, says developer Louis Salomonsky, who is working on the project with David White of SWA Architects. Cleanup and demolition on the site will begin in a couple of months. The historic building will retain its brick exterior and structure, he says, along with the giant letters on the outside walls advertising Todd Ham & Bacon.

The earliest part of the building dates to 1892, when it housed the Richmond Brewery and Hygeia Ice Factory. The area was a thriving industrial center when, in the 1920s, the E. M. Todd Company moved in and expanded the structure into a smokehouse and processing plant for hams.

Now the factory stands silent among weeds and broken-windowed warehouses. Shattered glass and pigeon droppings crunch on the floor. But Salomonsky and White see under the debris a structure with lofty spaces, unique fixtures like the iron oven doors, and a 360-degree view from the planned rooftop townhouses.

As tenants, they expect to draw young professionals who're looking for midpriced apartments with some character. Rent would be around $1 monthly per square foot, he says; $650 for a single bedroom apartment, $900 for a double.

"People would be pioneers to move in there, because there's nothing around it right now," says Morton Gulak, a professor in Virginia Commonwealth University's urban-studies department, upon hearing of the plans. But, Gulak says, "that could create the spark for other things to happen around it. Right now it seems crazy, but it may work."

— Melissa Scott Sinclair

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