VUU lands $40M investment, plans up to 200 homes at Brook and Overbrook

February 5, 2024 contactdesigners

VUU lands $40M investment, plans up to 200 homes at Brook and Overbrook

Richmond BizSenseLess than a month after unveiling a $500 million plan for development of its campus in Richmond’s Northside, Virginia Union University announced the first step it is taking toward implementing that plan over the next 10 years.

During its Founders’ Day festivities on Friday, VUU announced that Steinbridge Group, a Philadelphia-based investment firm, will invest upwards of $40 million in a joint venture with the university to develop up to 200 apartments and potentially some for-sale homes on university-owned land at Brook and Overbrook roads at the campus’s northeast corner.

The development could include some commercial space and would total at least 130 residential units with market-rate and lower-income rents or price points. The housing would be available to the general public, including students and alumni, and would create a new revenue stream for the university, with profits from rents shared between VUU and Steinbridge through the joint venture.

In a release, VUU President Hakim Lucas said Steinbridge’s investment “will enable Virginia Union to create new sources of income, which will further strengthen our ability to create opportunities for students and the community.”

“As the oldest African-American-owned, continuously run nonprofit, and as an anchor institution for Northside Richmond, we have a historic responsibility to drive the economic community development of this side of town,” Lucas said.

Described as the largest investment in VUU’s history, the $40 million stems from a $100 million commitment that Steinbridge made last fall to help HBCUs and minority service institutions “unlock the value” of underutilized land and assets they own.

Steinbridge selected VUU as its first recipient through a collaboration with Student Freedom Initiative, a D.C.-based nonprofit founded by Vista Equity Partners founder and CEO Robert Smith. Smith made headlines in 2019 when he surprised that year’s class of Morehouse College graduates by pledging to settle all of their loan debt, amounting to $34 million.

SFI assessed VUU’s land ownership and readiness to go forward with such a development and, according to university officials, determined that VUU was the readiest of the 100-plus HBCUs across the country.

The project is the first step of a multi-phased campus development plan that VUU unveiled last month. Subsequent phases are to include new student housing, an athletics and wellness center, a performing arts center and a sports arena.

The Steinbridge development would involve at least six parcels totaling over 3 acres that VUU owns along Brook and Overbrook. The properties include the executive mansion building at the corner of Brook and Graham Road, and the old Richmond Community Hospital building at 1209 Overbrook Road, as well as three houses fronting Brook that are used as university offices.

The executive mansion building would remain with the development, while the 1930s-era hospital building, which the university said is no longer usable, would apparently be razed to make way for the new buildings. Officials said the new development would “appropriately honor and commemorate” the hospital as the first black hospital in Richmond.

A campus map showing the project site indicates that the development could extend along Overbrook across parts of two separately owned properties that bookend the hospital site: the Richmond Police Training Academy property at 1202 W. Graham Road, and the Baptist General Convention of Virginia property at 1214 W. Graham. It wasn’t clear how those properties would be included in the project.

It also wasn’t clear what the new development would look like or what the size or height of the new buildings would be. Richmond-based KEI Architects is lined up to design the buildings.

The four parcels at 2410-2416 Brook Road are zoned for multifamily residential use, while the Overbrook hospital site and the executive mansion property at 1200 W. Graham Road are zoned institutional. The six university-owned parcels are assessed by the city at $2.28 million collectively.

In an interview in December, Lucas described the development and other parts of the 10-year plan that extend beyond the campus proper as integral to making VUU a cultural anchor and economic driver for that area and the greater Richmond community.

“We must create living spaces for people who want to learn, but we also must create jobs. And if we create jobs, then we create revenue for the city,” Lucas said. “This is the goal: living spaces, so that people can learn in a quality environment, that they can get jobs and we can provide and drive new sources of revenue to the city.”

The development with Steinbridge is planned to start construction by the end of this year and be completed by the end of 2025.

Read the full article at Richmond BizSense.