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St. Luke Building to begin leasing in June

Jeremy M. Lazarus | 4/5/2019, 6 a.m.
Two years after it was first announced, the renovation of the historic, but long-vacant St. Luke Building in Gilpin Court ...
From left: Wanda Stallings, Charles Ayers, and Margaret Stallings

Two years after it was first announced, the renovation of the historic, but long-vacant St. Luke Building in Gilpin Court into upscale apartments is coming together.

Attorney and lead developer Charles E. Ayers Jr. said he expects the work to be substantially complete and leasing to begin by mid-June in the four-story building and an adjacent house.

He is a partner with the building’s owners, Margaret and Wanda Stallings, who have spearheaded the $3.6 million effort to modernize and reuse the national historic landmark at 900 St. James St. first developed in 1902-03 by iconic Richmond businesswoman Maggie L. Walker.

The building served as the headquarters of the United Order of St. Luke that Mrs. Walker led for 35 years. Inside the building, she famously launched the order’s bank, published a newspaper and operated the fraternal order’s insurance and membership programs.

As the current project heads toward the finish line, another new Gilpin Court development is gearing up to begin: The renovation of the former Baker School at nearby 100 W. Baker St. That vacant building is to be transformed into more than 50 modern senior apartments.

The work is expected to begin within 60 to 90 days, with groundbreaking expected in June. That project represents the final phase in replacing the 200 apartments in nearby Fay Towers and is a companion to the Jackson Place development now underway at 1st and Duval streets in Jackson Ward.

Mr. Ayers said that work on St. Luke has been underway since December 2017 and has taken a bit longer than expected because of some unique problems. For example, he said that the covering on the original wood floors had to be removed, along with a thick gummy adhesive that required extra work to eliminate.

Wanda Stallings said the development also has faced problems getting city approvals. In 2017, the city’s Department of Planning and Development misplaced the development plans for at least 90 days, holding up consideration. The department then kept piling on additional requirements and forced rezoning before issuing permits, she said.

Ms. Stallings said city officials have continued to add new requirements and also refused to release the $100,000 grant that City Council approved to support the installation of new sidewalks and landscaping.

“But we are still moving ahead,” she said. “We are not going to allow anyone to stop us.”

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