Construction starts on East End culinary school; grocery store next

Rendering of the planned culinary school for Reynolds Community College.

RICHMOND, Va. — A project aimed at improving public health and food availability in the city’s East End is now underway at a transforming urban crossroads.

Site work started last week on the planned Church Hill North Retail Center complex at the convergence of Nine Mile Road, North 25th Street and Fairmount Avenue.

Construction is starting with a four-story building that will house a culinary school for J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College, along with office space, a restaurant and a dozen apartments.

The modern-style building, designed by the same architecture team behind the Institute for Contemporary Art at VCU, will rise on a 0.3-acre parcel at 2500 Nine Mile Road.

Work soon will begin on a mixed-use building that will fill a vacant city block on the other side of 25th Street along Fairmount Avenue.

That four-story building will house a 27,000-square-foot grocery store, 42 apartments and 8,500 square feet of retail space. A Jim’s Local Market store had been planned for the grocery space but is no longer part of the project.

Spearheaded by philanthropists Steven and Kathie Markel, the complex aims to provide healthy food options and nutritional resources to that area of the city, which observers say is devoid of traditional grocery and produce options.

Both buildings are aimed to be operational in about 18 months. While a replacement for Jim’s Local Market has yet to be announced, Steven Markel, vice chairman of local insurance giant Markel Corp., said he is working out details for the grocery’s operation and could announce a new operator in coming weeks.

Markel provided an update on the project at a meeting Wednesday of ULI Virginia, the state chapter of Urban Land Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit.

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