Historic Resources officials make way for Intermediate Terminal building demolition

Jeremy M. Lazarus | 7/16/2018, 10 a.m.
The state Department of Historic Resources has upheld City Hall’s view that a landmark warehouse in the city’s East End, ...

The state Department of Historic Resources has upheld City Hall’s view that a landmark warehouse in the city’s East End, once a major source of jobs for African-Americans, has no historical value and can be demolished to make way for the modern bistro and restaurant that Stone Brewing Co. wants to build.

Laura Lavernia, an architectural historian for DHR, delivered the agency’s conclusion about the vacant building at 3101 E. Main St. to city staff in a letter dated July 6.

The letter is good news for Mayor Levar M. Stoney and his staff, who want to clear away the massive, reinforced concrete building at Intermediate Terminal where dozens of workers once unloaded, repackaged and reloaded Cuban sugar for the Hershey Co.

The beer company agreed three years ago to renovate the old warehouse and turn it into a bistro and beer garden as part of the city taxpayer-subsidized deal that brought the company to Richmond.

The warehouse is a familiar building to many. It sits along the James River beside Main Street and stretches on giant pillars over Dock Street. Traffic drives under the warehouse going to and from Main Street or state Route 5.

However, the company now claims renovation would be too expensive, even with a promised $8 million loan from the city. The company has the mayor’s support to replace the riverfront structure while still being able to get the loan and other city subsidies.

Mayor Stoney has sent legislation to City Council seeking approval, but the legislation has remained on hold as the city went through the DHR review process.

Now it will be up to City Council to determine the fate of the building. The council could support demolition or alternatively scrap the deal with Stone Brewing Co. and direct the city to put the building up for bids now that the beer company has backed out of its deal to renovate it.

Another party, Jearald D. “Jerry” Cable, owner of The Tobacco Company restaurant in Shockoe Slip, has offered to buy the building for a “fair market value” to renovate it for a restaurant and to do so without any city subsidies.

Others might be interested if the building is auctioned.

The property, now owned by the city’s Economic Development Authority, is assessed at $1.8 million.

DHR became involved because a federal law requires a historic review any time federal funding is used, and that has been the case for the area around the building.

In her letter, Ms. Lavernia stated that DHR has come to agree with the city’s consultant, Dutton & Associates, that the building cannot quality for listing on state and federal registers of historic places.

The building was once part of a major city effort to rebuild its declining shipping and commercial trading business. Richmond has long been a center for water-born trade, first for natives and then for the English who arrived in the early 17th century. Nearby Rocketts Landing was the first English trading post.

The city’s location at the falls of the James River made it a center for exports of flour milled from Shenandoah Valley, wheat and Midlothian coal and for the slave trade until the Civil War ended slavery. But it continued to be a bustling port as new industries arrived.