Plan collapses for South Side homeless shelter and services center

Jeremy M. Lazarus | 8/23/2018, 6 a.m.
It’s back to the drawing board for City Hall and Commonwealth Catholic Charities in seeking a new space for a ...

It’s back to the drawing board for City Hall and Commonwealth Catholic Charities in seeking a new space for a shelter and resource center for the homeless in Richmond.

A CCC proposal to transform a former South Side church into a space that could provide shelter and an array of other services has collapsed.

The charity, which operates the city’s winter overflow shelter at the city’s former Public Safety Building near City Hall and provides other services in the 500 block of West Grace Street, failed to meet a purchase deadline to buy the historic property at 1101 Bainbridge St. in the up-and-coming Manchester neighborhood.

“We simply could not accomplish the necessary steps to purchase the property within the time constraints of the existing agreement,” Jay Brown, director of CCC housing services, acknowledged in a statement.

That virtually ensures that the old Public Safety Building will continue to house the homeless on nights when temperatures are 40 degrees or below — although city officials have said they and CCC are continuing the hunt that began four years ago to find another location before Oct. 1 when the shelter can open.

CCC has looked at 36 other buildings since 2014 when it became the shelter operator, and began focusing on the Bainbridge Street site after it came on the market. Officials described it as the first space that offered a realistic prospect for a combination shelter, feeding center and a health and program services operation.

But the charity, which signed a purchase agreement in April, lost out on the building when it failed to complete the purchase by last week. The owner, Community Bainbridge Baptist Church, terminated the deal and quickly inked a new sales agreement with Corinthian Construction, a residential developer in the Manchester neighborhood.

The church already has relocated to the former Southampton Baptist Church about 5 miles west of its former home. The church also wanted to sell in order to relocate its religious school that soon will begin classes.

The city assessed the property that includes the church, a parsonage and a basketball court at $742,000. The property was advertised at $1.4 million.

Councilwoman Ellen F. Robertson, 6th District, who represents the area, had not endorsed the CCC proposal, despite lobbying from Mayor Levar M. Stoney and the administration. Her concern was magnified after business owners and residents opposed the plan at an Aug. 9 community meeting, although some did offer support.

The CCC and the city appear to have written off the old Public Safety Building at 501 N. 9th St. as an option for the homeless services center, in part, because it is targeted for redevelopment under a plan that includes construction of a new Coliseum.

However, several City Council members privately indicated that the building should be considered based on its proximity to Virginia Commonwealth University’s medical campus and its central location to government and nonprofit services.