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American Tobacco building on Jeff Davis to become lofts for artists

American Tobacco buildings at 800 Jeff Davis

RICHMOND – The Richmond City Council has agreed to issue $20 million in bonds to fund the development of 159 low-income housing units on Jefferson Davis Parkway – apartments aimed at appealing to artists.

The council unanimously passed a resolution Monday authorizing the Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority to issue the bonds. The money will help Richmond developer Tom Wilkinson renovate the American Tobacco building, at 716 Jefferson Davis Highway. The residential rental housing project will be known as Richmond ArtistSpace Lofts.

The resolution was sponsored by Councilwoman Reva Trammell, 8th District.

“This is something that is really going to restart the Jefferson Davis corridor,” Trammell said.

Wilkinson agreed.

“In 2015, the city of Richmond participated in a market study looking at housing for artists who don’t make millions of dollars a year, but make a living wage … There is a significant demand for that type of housing,” Wilkinson said. “Of the 150 units or so that will be there, roughly half of them will be targeted for artists.”

Wilkinson expects move-ins to begin this summer. He echoed Trammell’s optimism regarding the project’s impact on the surrounding area.

“We should be able to start putting people in the first 66 units in July, with the remaining 68 or 69 units available for occupancy in December,” Wilkinson said. “My belief is it will be an excellent way to get started with redevelopment for the Jeff Davis corridor.”

Richmond has a thriving community of artists, and that was reflected at Monday’s City Council meeting. Toni-Leslie James, director of costume design in Virginia Commonwealth University’s Department of Theater, received an award for her work with students.

“A picture is worth a thousand words, and a costume tells much of the story,” Councilwoman Kimberly Gray, 2nd District, said in presenting the award to James. “You’re changing lives here in Richmond.”

James thanked Gray and other members of the council. “I don’t know what to say, except I am proud to reside here in Richmond,” she said.

By Thomas Jett/Capital News Service
Capital News Service is a flagship program of VCU’s Robertson School of Media and Culture. Students participating in the program provide state government coverage for Virginia’s community newspapers and other media outlets, under the supervision of Associate Professor Jeff South.