Art-Deco Model Tobacco property slated for apartments, beer garden

The complex is known for its Art Deco-style main building. (Photos by J. Elias O’Neal)

RICHMOND, Va. — A Maryland-based developer is weeks away from closing on a purchase and beginning his planned resurrection of a long-dormant tobacco factory on the city’s Southside.

Chris Harrison, principal of C.A. Harrison Cos., said he plans to finalize a deal for the 15-acre Model Tobacco Co. complex at 1000 and 1100 Jefferson Davis Highway by the end of the month.

He said he plans to bring a mix of 275 apartment units, the bulk of which will be income-based.

In addition to renovating much of the site’s main Art Deco-style building into apartments, Harrison said the project also would include a 47,000-square-foot entertainment venue that would house a beer garden and space for a restaurant.

Harrison, who has not filed a development plan with the city, said construction is slated to begin toward the end of the second quarter, and will take about 18 months to complete. Richmond-based Walter Parks Architects is designing the project. A general contractor was not disclosed.

Harrison placed the sprawling property under contract in August 2017. Brokers Ryan Rilee and Tom Rosman of One South Commercial are representing the sellers, Charles and Eileen Keck, who have owned it since 1989.

He has hired Lory Markham, owner of local land-use consulting firm Markham Planning and One South Commercial agent, to lease the entertainment venue. She also helped the development firm to rezone the property last summer.

Harrison would not disclose the purchase price or cost estimate for the redevelopment project.

The property most recently was assessed for about $5.5 million, according to city real estate records.

The Model Tobacco complex is comprised of seven buildings, most notably the Art Deco, six-story, 222,000-square-foot building fronting Jefferson Davis Highway that dates to 1940.

The site was one of 13 historic properties that the state’s Department of Historic Resources added to the Virginia Landmarks Register last month. The state division plans to forward that list of properties to the National Park Service for nomination to the National Register of Historic Places.

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