RICHMOND, Va. — The final piece of the puzzle for a fast-transforming city block in the heart of VCU appears to be in place – and the university isn’t the one putting it there.
Despite interest from VCU, local businessman Steve Uphoff is pushing ahead with his plan for an 18-story tower on his Sunoco gas station site next door to the under-construction Institute for Contemporary Art.
Work is underway to tear down the station at the corner of North Belvidere and West Grace streets to make way for the 209,000-square-foot tower, which would consist of 129 apartments, a pharmacy and other retail on the ground floor, and above that a one- or two-story location of Uphoff’s bowling alley chain, Uptown Alley.
The projected $100 million project would fill the quarter-acre lot at 600 W. Grace St., where crews with Mid-Atlantic Construction were preparing to demolish the gas station and remove its underground gas tanks. Uphoff, known for his chain of Uppy’s Convenience Stores and gas stations, purchased the property in 2007 for $1.1 million, according to city property records.
Uphoff originally had planned a six-story tower with a gas station on the site. He said a deed restriction that required the gas station has since expired, and that existing zoning and conditional-use approvals allow for the mix of uses and 18-story height, which he said would make it the tallest building in Richmond based on physical elevation.
Uphoff said Monday he’s aiming for construction to start in October – the same month the neighboring ICA is scheduled to open. Construction would last 18 months, he said.
“We’ll be shadowing the contemporary art building, unfortunately, which will be below us,” Uphoff said. “Not that we want to be any more dominant than they are, because they’re a gorgeous building. We’re going to build a gorgeous building next to them.”