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A new plan for the East End Theater (UPDATED)

Almost 3 years after getting word that the theater was in new hands, a plan is being put forth for its renovation.

A neighbor sent in this scan of a drawing recently received concerning the former East End Theater. He says that there was also a letter with information about an upcoming meeting, which he has unfortunately misplaced. Anybody got any more info?

UPDATE 1/31: Here are more more drawings of the project (PDF) including layout, apartment sizes, etc.

UPDATE 2/1: Richmond Planning and Development Review response (PDF)

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Michael 01/30/2013 at 7:35 AM

6:00 PM February 5th
East District Family Resource Center
22405 Jefferson Avenue, Richmond, VA

Alex 01/30/2013 at 8:06 AM

The design is actually not terrible in the picture. Then again it wasn’t immediately clear how bad Johannas’ towers on Broad were going to look when they were in sketch form. A lot will depend on the quality of materials and construction.

On a different note, what’s up with all the people in the street? Are these units so small they don’t have a living room to hang out in? Is there going to be something interesting in this building? Is this place targeted at loiterers? Hopefully the letter will explain all…

James 01/30/2013 at 9:00 AM

I might be missing something here, but there is some sort of crazy add on thing on the right side of the building. I thought the house next door butted up against the theatre. Anybody figure this out?

Lady 23 01/30/2013 at 10:11 AM

All the neighborhoods who are close to this new ‘theatre’ received a letter and the above the picture with it. We did. The letter was from the law firm representing them, Williams Mullen. This has been in the works for some time. Unfortunately, since we also discarded the letter I cannot recall information about the upcoming meeting. But, it seems that the person developing this property will be building more condos. While I would prefer it remain a theatre, this progress would be good. Certainly better than it is now.

Lady 23 01/30/2013 at 10:15 AM

Correction to my post: all the ‘neighbors’. Sorry about that.

Michael 01/30/2013 at 10:40 AM

Unfortunately, this project is much more complicated than what is being shared publicly. My wife Laura and I, owners of Anderson’s Neck Oyster Company and Church Hill residents since 2001, submitted a purchase offer to the City of Richmond on September 12, 2012 to acquire the vacant building at 313 N 24th and the adjoining parking lot at 2407 E Marshall Street. The offer price was at the city’s assessed value. Currently, both the building and the parking lot are owned by the City of Richmond’s Parks and Recreation division.

We offered to renovate the building and convert it to a brewpub with an oyster bar, featuring oysters from our oyster farm (see more here: We have already developed three styles of beers (see here, have a brew master lined up, and plan to develop more beers as we move forward.

At first, the City appeared very interested in our offer. However, we were told later by the City that Mr. Josh Bilder was working to renovate the movie theater on 25th Street and the City had already been working with Mr. Bilder to sell him the parking lot at 2407 E Marshall Street in order to provide the necessary parking for the apartments. Apparently the City plans to also sell the 313 N 24th building to Mr. Bilder so that he may convert that building into more apartments as well. The City did share their concern that the project kept changing, no progress seemed to be taking place for several years, and contingencies kept cropping up with the offer. However, once we made our offer to the City and our plan was shared with Mr. Bilder, apparently he rekindled his interest and decided to start working on the project again. As such, the city informed us they intended to stick with Mr. Bilder and to put our offer on the back burner as a backup plan if Mr. Bilder didn’t move forward.

Our visceral reaction when hearing this news was that the last thing Church Hill needed was more apartments. We need businesses, restaurants, breweries, bakeries, etc. to enhance the neighborhood. Church Hill and the City in general need more jobs, taxes, and tourism dollars, not more apartments. We feel that converting the building on 24th and the movie theater into apartments would be a mistake and an opportunity lost, especially when considering the tourism potential given the proximity to St. John’s Church. With all that having been said and in fairness to Mr. Bilder and the City, we certainly would rather see these structures as apartments rather than continuing to be dilapidated, abandoned buildings. We feel however, that apartments are not the highest and best use for these buildings.

As a result of the lack of progress with the City on our offer, we are now actively working with the City on purchasing a different building located in Scott’s Addition to locate a brewery. While our Scott’s Addition brewery project is progressing slowly but surely, our offer to buy 313 N 24th and the adjoining parking lot at 2407 E Marshall Street and convert it to a brewpub still stands. We remain enthusiastic about that plan and stand behind our offer to the City.

Whatever the result, we hope the neighbors of Church Hill let the City’s Economic and Community Development Department and City Council know what you would like to see in those buildings. Time to influence the decision appears to be running out.

Ray 01/30/2013 at 10:41 AM

James is right about the bump-out out the right hand side. You can squeeze something in the space between the theater and the house, but there is no way something this substantial which we see in the rendering can be built there.

Botton line: Like we saw from similar artistic sketches from Libby Hill/Echo Harbor and the montrosity of the Johannas Towers on Broad St., be very skeptical of these promtional renderings that the project developers put out.

JD 01/30/2013 at 12:04 PM

Michael, have you reached-out to Mr. Bilder? It seems like the potential for some sort of cooperation/partnership exists.

human honey badger 01/30/2013 at 12:43 PM

How did the city come to own this property? It was in private hands 5 or so years ago, when the owners gutted the building. Or am I confused about theaters?

Alex 01/30/2013 at 12:44 PM

@6 – It saddens me to think we could have had a really awesome oyster bar and brewpub if not for the city’s continued cronyism. Bilder has had plenty of time to shit or get off the pot here and has done neither.

If you know of anyone that we can direct our support for your business to in the city, please let us know. I suspect there are dozens, if not hundreds, of residents that would love to have you join our rapidly expanding food mecca. Perhaps a petition?

J 01/30/2013 at 1:00 PM

No to apts. . yes to oysters,
Just be careful with the city.
I bought a house at auction from the city . One week later it was condemned by the city.and I was forced to pay the city 5 k to have it demolished. Now everytime someone dumps their trash on the empty lot . I receive fines from the city. Not just once! I know it’s my fault for not driving across town every weekend and checking on it. I’m just saying. City hall is lame

Michael 01/30/2013 at 1:07 PM

JD, the short answer is no.

There are several reasons for this. Considering the amount of capital required to be invested in brewery equipment that is custom designed for the specific building at hand, we are not interested in leasing from a developer. The problem is that the developer has you over the barrel when it comes time for renewing a lease, knowing you have customized equipment for that building and relocating is really not an option. The other problem is that we do not want to be tied to a developer who may not fulfill on his plans for development in a timely manner. The theater is a perfect example of a development that has been sitting for three years now with absolutely no movement. We are ready to get our brewery up and running now, not 5 years from now.

Then there is the parking issue. If Mr. Bilder secures the parking lot to meet the apartment parking requirements for the theater, you cannot also use that lot for a brewpub since the two will have identical operating hours. It is one or the other, apartments or brewpub parking, not both.
As such, we are currently working with the City and moving toward the purchase of a building in Scott’s Addition for our brewery location.

Shawn 01/30/2013 at 1:47 PM

More apartments!? The oyster bar and brewery sounds WAY better.

Lady 23 01/30/2013 at 1:54 PM

I am very sorry to hear that the brewpub was nixed by the city. I certainly agree that that last thing we need in the neighborhood is yet MORE apartments. Look at the wonderful new additions we have had recently: Dutch and Company, Proper Pie, WPA Bakery, Subrosa, Anthony’s on the Hill…. all joining in with Alamo BBQ, Hill Cafe, Patrick Henry’s and the ever popular Roosevelt. This is a lovely and positive thing. A brewpub would have been another addition to these jewels. But no, the city butts in, takes charge and moves in the wrong direction – as usual. One thing that I think is emblematic of our neighborhood is the do-it-yourself, make-it-better-yourself attitude we all have. We do not expect anyone to do anything for us really. I mean, when we moved here years ago the general attitude was that people who chose to live on Church Hill deserved whatever they got. I had a friends from Henrico who came to visit us with their goddaughter when we moved in, and they refused to stay any longer than 15 minutes, as they told their little girl that our home and neighborhood were not safe for children. You can imagine how that made us feel. I have been proud and happy to see the strides the neighborhood has taken over the years. It makes me very sorry to hear that was is a landmark building will be converted to crappy apartments. If a petition does form to show our displeasure about this, I will certainly sign it.

Jenn 01/30/2013 at 2:21 PM

I would sign it too.

JD 01/30/2013 at 3:00 PM

Michael, I understand your concerns. Is it possible to eliminate the off-street parking requirement for an apartment building via a special use permit? If so, maybe Mr. Bilder would be willing to relinquish the surface parking lot parcel. Maybe I’m being too idealistic but I don’t see why both uses (apartments and brewpub) can’t coexist. I know some residents my scoff at the idea of no off-street parking for the apartment project but there is ample parking in Church Hill and I know of few desirable urban environments possessing surface parking lots. Surface lots are ugly, underutilized, wastes of space.

Alex 01/30/2013 at 3:14 PM

Petition is up. Let’s get this thing filled up folks.

I didn’t specify a specific purchaser as I think anything but more apartments would be welcome (though I’d love the oysters and brew).

In general, it would be nice if the city would get out of the holding onto unused buildings to hook up connected parties later business. Sadly, Richmond City is among the biggest slumlords out there.

Geneva Smith 01/30/2013 at 3:35 PM

Not only are those towers on Broad awful, those things on Main look like a third world country. Everyone should go
to the East District meeting on Thursday night. I got a robo
call from Ms. Newbill about it. I think it is at 6:30.

Brett 01/30/2013 at 4:01 PM

I would like to say at this juncture that most of you are nuts. Yes we would all like to see this turn back into a theater but that is not realistic. Run the numbers and let me know how that works out for you. Also, there is going to be retail on the first floor so there is space for commercial business so stop freaking out that you can’t have another bakery. It is not ALL apartments. There are still plenty of places in Church Hill to develop. How about one of you geniuses buy up the place across from the fire station or Dukes down on Broad? They are available. Go for it! Please! Also, it takes people to make business successful. We need more residents. With more residents comes more retail establishments. Mr. Bilder’s family has a long history with the City of Richmond. They made the right decision to stick with Bilder. His family has been in this town for generations. His great grandfather was born in Church Hill and owned a furniture store in Shockoe Bottom. Bilder has previous experience in building condos in the Bottom. Why not stick with them if they got the whole thing off the ground? He got there first. It sat there for years before he did anything and now he’s the enemy? Where was everyone before he bought it? Why would you toss him aside for some pipe dream? Don’t get all hopped up on someone blowing into town with big ideas about breweries that probably would have never happened. It would have cost twice what the apartments would cost to do that anyway (probably $2million). Since they didn’t get to make an offer then they probably didn’t have time to do the due diligence to find out it wouldn’t make sense to build it in the first place. No offense, Anderson Neck, I am a huge fan, seriously, I have attended every event you have had in Richmond, but don’t come into my neighborhood and start throwing my neighbors under the bus and stirring up things. Any activity on 25th aside from a robbery is good. My dear neighbors, please stop nitpicking every new thing that comes up. Show some respect to those trying to make our neighborhood better. Show some respect for a family that was here long before you moved in to town. They are reaching out to the community for input. Be courteous. Be reasonable. Be grateful.

J 01/30/2013 at 4:15 PM

Petition !!!!!!!

Michael 01/30/2013 at 5:04 PM

Brett, I appreciate your comments and the support you have provided to ANOC. To clarify, Laura and I live only a block from the building across from the fire station in Church Hill that we offered to buy. So this is our neighborhood and has been since 2001. We aren’t swooping in from anywhere. We are simply trying to offer to fix up the building across from the firehouse that has been an eyesore for a long time and turn it into a brewpub (not the theater building, there seems to be some confusion here). When we made that offer, we had no idea of the convoluted deal struck by Mr. Bilder for that same building across from the firehouse and the lot next to it being tied to the theater apartment project purportedly being worked on by Mr. Bilder.

Also, we certainly won’t comment on Mr. Bilder as we have never had the pleasure of meeting him. I am sure he and his family are great people.

With that having been said, we are being prevented from helping with what we proposed as a plan to fix the building across from the firehouse and convert it into a brewpub. That building and the adjoining parking lot are and have been tied to Mr. Bilder’s theater apartment project for several years now according to the City. We didn’t realize that when we made our offer that the City had been holding onto these properties for several years in order to facilitate Mr. Bilder’s theater apartments project.

We will have to agree to disagree on the need for more apartments in Church Hill. Either way we are trying to move forward with our brewery, but it looks like it is going to go in Scott’s Addition for the reasons mentioned previously. I certainly don’t think it is a pipe dream. The money and people are already in place. And yes you are right, it is very expensive unfortunately. Nonetheless, we are going to try to give it a go, but it appears it will be located in a different neighborhood than Church Hill. Nevertheless we love Church Hill and hope to continue living here for a long, long time.

Alex 01/30/2013 at 5:32 PM

@19 – if Bilder walks on water, why does this theater still look like shit? The evidence is pretty clear for all of us in the neighborhood until something finally goes up.

There’s still three or four vacancies in the Johannas Tower on Broad if anyone is looking for an ugly place to live and I think even more in Lava Lofts for those who want something a little less gaudy on the outside. I’d hardly say we are out of residential. How many units can they realistically cram in this theater anyway?

crd 01/30/2013 at 5:41 PM

I’d like to second Geneva Smith’s sugggestion (#18) that everyone go to the East District meeting on Thursday, January 31. I too got a robo call about it. I’m pretty sure it’s at 6:30 p.m., and it is at the East District Center at 25th and M Streets. This is a separate meeting from anything the developer is holding, the meeting this Thursday is Ms. Newbille’s regular (sort of) east district meeting.

Unfortunately I will be at work, but I’d like to encourage my neighbors to go and talk to your council rep. It may not do much good, but at least get your concerns out there, you have to start somewhere. Complaining here in a couple of years, if the project gets built, won’t help. Talking now might help.

Lydia Hope 01/30/2013 at 5:54 PM

This looks to me like they took the entire block not just the movie theater. Am I wrong, but isn’t there a post office on this block are they buying those buildings too?

Dear Neighbor 01/30/2013 at 7:48 PM

Let’s be honest here, if this was a proposal for a brewpub, which it never has been – that was located elsewhere an only tied to this due parking according the previous posts – most Church Hill residents would be screaming against it due to parking, hours of operation, and ABC issues like they (we) always do. This oyster bar thread should be somewhere else. Suggested thread titles for that: incomplete due diligence, misplaced blame, red herrings.

I look forward to the meeting on the 5th. This proposal is a vast improvement over the previous one. I hear from immediate neighbors that this version has one for one parking and is to Department of Historic Resources standards.

M 01/30/2013 at 8:03 PM

I completely agree with Brett. Its very disheartening to see most new developments in Church Hill met with some type of disapproval from residents. I, for one, am happy to see an old, dilapidated building being repurposed. Currently, its a giant eyesore on 25th.

While I would love to see a brewpub in Church Hill, maybe this is not the best location for it since apparently the land is being reserved by the city for other purposes. However, there are many other locations in Church Hill that would be perfect for a brewpub. OMG Cafe’s old space? Wouldn’t be quite as expensive to renovate? But there are plenty of other spaces that would fit I’m sure.

Read between the lines 01/30/2013 at 8:47 PM

#19 – Pleezzeeee. Glad you and Bilder have such a love Fest going but they will be crappy small apartments. No advantage to Churchill only your boy Josh! Lets be honest!

Ray 01/30/2013 at 9:00 PM

If the city really wanted to be proactive, they could try to secure the parking lot that belongs to the Post Office on the southside of the P. O. Building. That lot has not been used for years and there certainly aren’t have any plans to do so. It could be a solution for both the theater and the building on 24th.

By the way, that whole section between the COGIC Church and the theatre ought to be torn down and redeveloped. The OMG building and Post Office building and parking lot have no visual appeal and the entire space it grossly underutilized.

Brett F 01/30/2013 at 9:28 PM

OK, so if I understand this:

The brewpub folks are not interested in the theater, but only in the building on 24th. They would need the parking lot to meet code for the project to fly. If someone were to redevelop the theater they would likely also need the parking lot and it seems unlikely that there would be enough space in the lot accommodate two projects. So for that reason alone, it seems that the city has to move this as a package deal.

Should it be apartments or not? I don’t know. I think the additional residential is not the worst thing and might create some added energy for that block. There may be better options than apartments for that building. But the worst option would be for the current rotting hulk to stay as is. It is a dangerous eyesore and it is dragging down that part of 25th. Better someone do something productive with it than nothing happen with it while we continue to pine for the perfect project.

I don’t know Mr. Bilder from Adam. Wouldn’t know him if I saw him. But he is the only one with a plan on the table that does something to that dump. While the brewpub and oyster bar sound cool, their project would not mitigate one of the largest blighted properties on Church Hill. We may not love the solution being offered to solve the problem, but no one else has put an alternative on the table with money to back it.

We have been very fortunate in recent months with the new restaurants and bakeries. But we also need more people moving up here. The times my wife and I have been into Anthony’s, we have either been the only people there or one other table was in use. Our time in Johnson’s had us there with only one other table in use. How many more restaurants can be reasonably supported up here where the ones we have–and that are good–are not necessarily doing massive business?

Not everyone is going to like every project that is proposed in Church Hill. But it is to pretty much everyone’s benefit that something be done with buildings like the theatre that are dangerous, unsightly and undermine property values and people’s confidence in the neighborhood. We can’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good in these things. While I am disappointed that Mr. Bilder has dragged his feet on this project for years, if he is going to finally put a shovel in the dirt and get something done, then what he is proposing is better than what we have now.

Finally, to the folks that want to do the brew pub. I don’t know much about what goes into a project like that. I don’t drink. And I don’t like oysters. But I LOVE your project. I really would love to see you do your project in Church Hill because it would be good for the neighborhood—a neighborhood you live in and are invested in. I have to believe there is another space in the neighborhood that could accommodate your project if Mr. Bilder’s is going forward. There are a couple on Jefferson that maybe would be a good fit. If you live up here, I hope you will take one more look at potential options that might be available before finalizing on Scott’s Addition. We need you in the neighborhood.

Alex 01/31/2013 at 6:55 AM

@29 – a few things I disagree with you on:

1. Plans on the table are a dime a dozen. Give me 30 minutes and a box of crayons and I could be caught up with the amount of measurable progress Bilder’s made in years.

2. The difference b/t Anderson Neck and the two you cited is that Anderson Neck is the kind of place that has the potential to draw folks in from beyond the neighborhood. Anthony’s and Johnson’s are great but nobody’s going to drive across town for a pizza. They’re neighborhood restaurants. At this stage in the game places with a broader appeal are great to have as cornerstones as they keep this neighborhood on the map.

3. Given how little of the building remains intact, I don’t think I’d assume something needs to be done with the theater. If you take that as a starting assumption, you’re probably right. It’s basically 4 walls in poor shape and some rusted out facade pieces. The ship to save the historical value has sailed. If Bilder doesn’t move soon, knock the damn thing over already. The only reason to use this instead of building new on the site is to collect tax credits.

Otherwise, good email with lots of good points.

Sour Grapes 01/31/2013 at 8:28 AM

Its interesting no one has even seen or heard Bilder’s plan, yet most posts have already passed judgement. Insults are being flung annonomously at a project that has developed and evolved over three years. Several posts sound like scorned girl friends rather than “concerned citizens.” The theatre was for sale for years and most of the “neighbors” who “live within blocks” had an opportunity to purchase it and do whatever they wanted with it. You’re right there were dozens of projects proposed, the last one being a residence/saw mill. Looking forward to the meeting.

Lo 01/31/2013 at 9:42 AM

I saw the entire plan from the Lawrence Group which I sent to Mr. Murden this morning. Perhaps he will be able to post that information to the site. Most of the units in the proposal are under 600 SF, 1 under 400SF and another under 500 SF. I hope those concerned about responsible growth in our neighborhood attend the meeting on 2/5.

Morgan 01/31/2013 at 10:22 AM

I’d like to hear more about your buying a property then having to demolish it. Either you didn’t follow through or you weren’t educated on your options which is extremely unfortunate. If your property is condemned you have 30 days to submit plans to fix the issues/rehab the property. If you don’t comply, then your property will be demolished.

Alex 01/31/2013 at 10:39 AM

@31 – we’ve seen more than enough to judge over three years. While he has some cool sketches every once in a while and talks a good game, the lack of progress speaks for itself. Nobody should be holding up the progress of other buildings that could be useful for this guy to get his act together.

Brett F 01/31/2013 at 11:39 AM

@Alex #30:

1. I was of the impression from above that Mr. Bilder had his financing in place and was prepared to move forward. Perhaps I mde that assumption since he has a very expensive law firm working on this as noted above. If I misunderstood, I stand corrected. If he does NOT have financing in place and he is not the owner of the property, then he should have no special rights in this.

2. I agree that the brewpub would be more of a destination restaurant and would not rely solely on neighborhood patronage. That being said, we probably need some more population in the neighborhood to grow the businesses that are here and encourage further entrepreneurship.

3. I can only see the front of the theater building when I drive by so I had no idea what condition the structure is in overall. Would the facade need to be maintained for historic preservation rules? While it would be cool if it could be restored, I imagine that doing so would be costly relative to the value it might create. I suppose that would be for a developer to work through.

I don’t know if apartments are the best thing there or not. I’m no developer or urban planner nor do I play one on TV. I know that I live a few blocks from it on 25th and drive by it a lot and it is an eyesore. If someone has a plan and the dollars to execute the plan, and the plan is not some obvious problem child like an adult book store, and no alternative plan is in the offing with dollars in place, it will probably represent an improvement over the status quo.

klaman 01/31/2013 at 11:53 AM

excuse my ignorance, but what is the “johannas tower on broad?”

eco_chick 01/31/2013 at 3:34 PM

does anyone else have a problem with the fact that the City has “reserved” parcels of land for a particular developer? To me, that’s a bunch of crap… if the land is for sale, shouldn’t anyone be able to buy it? It seems off to me that a Public Entity is allowed to show such favoritism.

Clay Street 12345 01/31/2013 at 4:35 PM

I was at the meeting for “immediate neighbors” on January 9th to review the proposed theater plans. At that meeting there was no mention by Mr. Bilder, the architect, or Williams Mullen (all of whom were present) of a second parking lot reserved by the City for the theater’s use. I find this odd considering the question of parking was definitely raised given how limited parking would be across the street from the site (I believe the numbers were 1 parking space per apartment). Some other bones of contention were trash disposal for larger numbers of people plus a potential commercial tenant, the building’s “bump out” towards the house on 25th and Clay and its effect on the home’s value, and the size of some of the apartments (around 400 square ft) and what kind of new neighbor those small sizes would engender.

Further, the apartment complex wouldn’t have some amenities that are standard in other local apartment buildings that are still not fully occupied in Church Hill (i.e.: gym, movie theater). It’s unclear how these new apartments would be competitive in the already saturated market and what kinds of tenants it would draw.

I think we can all agree that we Church Hillians want a stronger and safer community. I think we can all agree that the renovation of the East End Theater or the development of that land is a good thing. What I’m unsure about is whether these plans (as they are) would further those goals.

J 01/31/2013 at 5:11 PM

Eco chick . I agree .

J 01/31/2013 at 5:20 PM

Morgan . Your right . I didn’t follow through . My mistake . But you don’t have to be a snob about it!

Alex 01/31/2013 at 6:50 PM

@36 – those really ugly apartments on 2100 block of Broad that stick out like a sore thumb from the rest of the street. There’s a bunch of old threads on the topic but at least a few of us feel that they wouldn’t have passed unless their architect wasn’t a member of CAR (as is the owner of this shitshow…). The city has a strange habit of choosing the folks who have done the least to preserve as guardians.

Alex 01/31/2013 at 6:51 PM

@35 – what you see from the outside is what’s left. It’s a shell inside. Just enough left to be able to claim the tax credits…

Alex 01/31/2013 at 6:57 PM

@37 – spot on. Of course this city is always about hooking up a select few. The same tired politicians keep their jobs despite no progress and the developers make it worth their while as long as they keep them hooked up. The rest of us are just here to foot the bill…

chpn 01/31/2013 at 7:32 PM

UPDATE: Here are more more drawings of the project (PDF) including layout, apartment sizes, etc.

Ray 01/31/2013 at 8:11 PM

2 units only 361 square feet, 2 units just 415 square feet, and only 2, two bedroom units both 836 square feet?

Lava Lofts looks like a palace compared to this place.

Dear Neighbor 01/31/2013 at 10:02 PM

On the “parking lot” issue: the City, as it is required by law to do, issued a long, open, and published request for proposals for the public to bid on the lot on 24th and Marshall. Everyone knew about it. If you didn’t know about it and you are in business in Church Hill (or were seriously looking for real estate in Church Hill) you have the wrong broker. Only two parties responded to the City’s request for proposal: (1) a theater company with zero funding and (2) Josh. Everyone in the world had a crack at it. The theater group refused the City’s request to use the lot jointly with Josh, and eventually withdrew their bid. All of this information has been discussed by City reps and all kinds of other people at community meetings in this neighborhood over the last year. Go to some meetings, folks. There is one next Tuesday.

Dear Neighbor 01/31/2013 at 10:09 PM

Also, the City is generally a too convenient bad guy in this thread. “The City should make the post office parking lot into X, Y and Z.”. Unfortunately for that idea, a state constitutional amendment that passed sweepingly in the last election expressly prevents the City from taking privately owned property for development purposes.

clay st resident 01/31/2013 at 10:32 PM

This may not be relevant at all but I wonder if the small apartments will be windowless? It is apparently the new “thing” for developers so I thought I’d throw it out there.

Shannon 01/31/2013 at 10:56 PM

I understand the desire to improve the eyesores in our area as quickly as possible, but (as others have said) I think we’ve started to reach our apartment max. Turning so many buildings into apartments seems like a temporary fix that will leave us with vacant, more expensive to repurpose shells a few years down the road.

bozatwork 01/31/2013 at 10:56 PM

What’s the going rate for apartments of that size? Pretty sure that would not attract long term residents who would benefit the neighborhood.

Alex 02/01/2013 at 7:44 AM

@50 – going rate for a 360 sq ft apartment? They don’t go in Richmond…

If you mean what they’ll ask for it, my guess would be $2/sq ft. At that price it will be the last unit to rent anywhere in the area.

Many of these are destined to sit vacant for months. There’s still a big “For Rent” sign on the Johannas Towers building six months or so after it opened for renters. However hot people think our market is for renters, this should serve as proof that it will take good design at least. The neighborhood is not yet at the point that folks are scrambling to live in broom closets.

Brett 02/01/2013 at 8:59 AM

Thank you Dear Neighbor.

Also, some folks said they don’t know the condition of the building. There is no roof. There are four walls and some beams. There isn’t much left to work with. Also, Josh hasn’t owned this building for 20yrs. I think he just bought it a few years back and contrary to what you people think you know, it takes a lot of time to get the plans together on something like this.

klaman 02/01/2013 at 9:49 AM

Alex, do you mean the two “houses” that are like blue and red or that actual apartment complex? i actually don’t mind the apartment complex (aesthetically) but the problem is that some of the units are under income restrictions. you have to make LESS than $26,000 to live in some units! that’s not really opening the place up for renters. if they removed that, that place would be filled immediately.

it seems the new development on cedar (see other post) where they are razing those old apartments will also be income restricted to some extent. income restriction draws in the wrong tenants (or no tenants) and those “new” apartments will soon look like shit as well.

Michael 02/01/2013 at 10:40 AM

Dear Neighbor,

I am not aware of the City having put the building on 24th and the adjoining lot up for auction. That is certainly not how the City described the situation to me. Here is what happened and what the City told me.

My wife and I have been walking past the vacant building on 24th for 11 years now and complaining to ourselves that it was falling into disrepair, but had great potential. Given our brewery/raw bar initiative, we decided to research who owned the building and the adjoining lot as a potential location. To our surprise, we discovered that the City owned the building. We thought perhaps we could fix up this eyesore of a building in our neighborhood and get a great location for our brewpub. It seemed to us like it could be a win-win situation.

I called the City’s ECD department and explained what we wanted to do. They were very enthusiastic about our proposal, but they clarified that the building was not “approved for sale already by the CAO/City Council and listed on the Surplus Property List.” Apparently buildings on the approved for sale list can be sold quickly whereas those sitting in the City’s inventory cannot as they need to go through CAO/City Council approval. I was also told that the 24th Street Building and adjoining lot had already received an unsolicited offer from a developer, but that the project did not seem to be going anywhere. I was encouraged to send an offer letter to buy the building/lot to the City, which I did. Then things got complicated.

Once my letter was shared internally, everything seemed to stop moving. I finally received a call back a month or so later, stating that the developer, Mr. Bilder, had rekindled his interest in the building/lot. I was told Mr. Bilder’s proposal was going to be shared with the CAO for approval and our proposal was not going to be shared at this time. They stated they would consider my proposal if things didn’t work out with Mr. Bilder. I was then shown a different building in Scott’s Addition by the City as a potential location, which we like very much and am trying to bring that transaction to close as we speak. The City has been very helpful on trying to help us find a brewery building, and we have no complaints with them. That being said, we wish the Church Hill building would have worked out. We also think it is a bad idea to make the 24th Street building and the theater into apartments. However, apartments would be better than dilapidated/collapsing buildings, which is what we have now.

Theater neighbor 02/01/2013 at 10:55 AM

I hope everyone will read the City Zoning Office comments on Mr. Bilder’s revised Theater plan.
If he will comply with their suggestions, the project could be much improved.

Ray 02/01/2013 at 11:29 AM

Brett, hate to disagree with you, but it really doesn’t take much time to develop such plans, especially for a “shell” project such as this where you don’t need to design around existing interior emcumbrances .

On a side note, another developer told me over a year ago that he had see other plans Mr. Bilder had developed which, believe it or not, had some type of atrium feature.

Dear Neighbor 02/01/2013 at 12:20 PM

There has been a macro demographic shift independent of the financial crisis that favors small single units. This has been objectively demonstrated. The old data and numbers don’t work anymore. People love these little units.

Alex 02/01/2013 at 12:32 PM

@55 – where did you see the information on the income restrictions? This seems particularly odd given the amount they are asking for rent. I think the annual rent would be about what they are capping the income at if you are right. Surely this can’t be the case.

Alex 02/01/2013 at 12:34 PM

@59 – I’m familiar with what you are talking about being a big trend in high cost of living neighborhoods like SF and NYC but do you have any datapoints that they are catching on Richmond? I haven’t seen any evidence that would lead me to believe that is the case here, though I realize that may change eventually.

Read between the lines 02/01/2013 at 1:04 PM

Wow! Sure glad that The Macro Demographic Shift has been confirmed!!! Whew!!!

Brett 02/01/2013 at 1:55 PM

Sorry to Anderson for not learning that they live in the neighborhood. Also sorry for them that they already started building in Scott’s Addition. The Martini Bar (old Main Street Brewery) that just closed would have been a great spot.

Ray, Josh has been through a number of architects in order to make sure he and the neighborhood get a nice project so that is one reason it is taking a while. Maybe the plans them self don’t take a while but the ideas, the financing, the planning, the purchase, etc, etc do take a while. Maybe it doesn’t take 3 years but I don’t see why any of that makes any difference anyway. There are no rules about how fast you have to build something once you buy it. It sat there for how many years before he bought it? Maybe you should have bought it sooner and got it done faster.

Brett 02/01/2013 at 1:57 PM

Also, Dear Neighbor is right AGAIN.

Morgan 02/01/2013 at 2:50 PM

J, this isn’t the right time or place to get into name calling on an issue that you brought upon yourself. I was just trying to see if your passing of blame onto the city was justified.

Read between the lines 02/01/2013 at 3:05 PM

Wish Brett would be more discrete with his irrational support of Mr. Bilder. The project as it ‘currently stands’ — readthe city’s latest comments: units too small, addition (basically a tractor trailer tacked to the side of the theatre) too wide in lot (10′ minimum to adjacent house), material used in construction still a mystery, no garbage plans (get ready local raccoons), – just read it. His embracing Mr. Bilders plan to Help Churchill is incorrect, inaccurate and downright blind.

Michael 02/01/2013 at 3:09 PM


We haven’t started building anything yet in Scott’s Addition. We are still trying to close on the purchase of the building in Scott’s Addition. We are still open to buying the building on 24th and the adjoining lot if Mr. Bilder’s plan does not materialize.

Alex 02/01/2013 at 3:52 PM

Brett or Dear Neighbor,

Since apparently this macro shift has been demonstrated in Richmond, can one of you please provide me with a source? I’d like to learn more about this sudden spike in demand for broom closets in a city that isn’t overly crowded or expensive. Not saying I don’t believe you but just that I haven’t seen any of these types of units moving in this market yet.

diana 02/01/2013 at 4:10 PM

Actually the demand for apartments in the City has never been better. The demand is there and prices are rising. Younger people may not object to ‘broom closets’ if they’re cool and new. It may even give them an opportunity to have a place to themselves and kiss the roommates goodbye.
City real estate sales are booming. Church Hill traditionally lags behind other, closer in, areas of the City.

Alex 02/01/2013 at 4:13 PM

The city’s review of the plans explains why all the folks in the picture are walking around the street…

“Usable open space ranging from 25 to 60 percent of the lot area is required..”

Between their tiny ass apartments and lack of common space, they have nothing else to do!

Alex 02/01/2013 at 4:55 PM

Again, can someone please cite for me an example or two where micro-apartments have successfully worked in Richmond. I’m quite curious to know what the smallest ones that are renting right now are and what they are fetching. It should be easy enough given how hot they are right?

Are you sure guys aren’t counting prison cells and dorm rooms here?

Ray 02/01/2013 at 7:08 PM

Did I attack you or something, Brett?

I really don’t think I deserved your snarky and sarcastic remarks.

crd 02/01/2013 at 8:36 PM

I just read the entire city response. I don’t think we need to worry about the ‘broom closet’ apartments as the city clearly won’t let that happen.

“3. Several units are shown as having floor areas of less than 500 square feet. The Planning Commission has previously expressed strong concerns regarding small unit sizes in their consideration of similar special use permit requests. Please reconfigure the floor plan or combine the units so that those with small floor area are eliminated.”

Note they didn’t say ‘well we’ll consider it’ or anything namby-pamby like that. They flat out told him to reconfigure. Also there are numerous, and I do mean numerous, things that he has to do to make this even begin to fly. Or be occupied. Parking is also an issue; someone here mentioned trash; other issues including things like operable windows in all units, and plenty of other stuff. I really don’t see a great cause for concern as long as all concerned continue to keep an eye on it, and attend meetings.

I also noted the city’s comment “Staff recognizes that this redesign resulted from discussions with nearby residents, neighborhood groups, City and State agencies….” etc. so keep it up, neighbors.

Alex 02/01/2013 at 11:05 PM

“3. Several units are shown as having floor areas of less than 500 square feet. The Planning Commission has previously expressed strong concerns regarding small unit sizes in their consideration of similar special use permit requests. Please reconfigure the floor plan or combine the units so that those with small floor area are eliminated.”

Hmm… How can this be? I thought these things were selling like hotcakes. They’re the latest trend from what folks are saying. People love them so much they’re getting two or three of them in a lot of cases…

Theater neighbor 02/02/2013 at 6:58 AM

The developer can take his plan directly to City Council for the Special Use Permit, if the Zoning Office doesn’t grant it. So, the politicians hold the final authority over the project.

But, Mr. Bilder can improve his plan by following the Zoning Office suggestions. We are waiting to see how he complies. The meeting on Tuesday, 6pm, at the Jefferson St. Community Building, will give him a chance to explain how he plans to comply with their recommendations.

Also, a very important point is that he needs tax credits. The Virginia Department of HIstoric Resources approval of his plan is key. They did not approve his first application, and that is why he went back to the drawing board and hired new architects and lawyers.

Alex 02/02/2013 at 8:56 AM

Anybody else find it amazing that this is still considered a historic renovation for tax purposes at this point?

crd 02/02/2013 at 11:06 AM

Alex #75, yes. Portions of four walls and no roof, no other features that I can tell. Agreed, amazing.

Amy N-B 02/02/2013 at 11:21 AM

@ Michael of Anderson’s Oysters – a) your oysters rule and b) beer is delicious. Any chance your oyster bar could go in the first floor commercial of Bilder’s reno? Perhaps with the brewing in the adjacent OMG space? Seem like it could be a draw for tenants, allow for shared use of the parking lot, and be an improvement for CH.
I am thrilled to see something happening with the Theatre. I would loved to have seen the Byrd East, but it was never going to happen. I would have loved to see it become the Wiley’s home (when that was the plan), and I’m supportive of it becoming apartments. While I too think that some of the units are a bit smaller than I would personally like, they might appeal to the medical and nursing students who are moving to CH in droves!
What I’m not supportive of are NIMBY numbnuts who constantly whine about lava lots, the Johannes duplex, the project that almost happened on the end of Broad, etc.
We need more occupants in CH to keep getting cool businesses – CH is a much cooler place than it was 9 years ago and that’s certainly a result of renters as well as buyers.

Cadeho 02/02/2013 at 10:30 PM

Soooo…. nobody else looks at this building and sees a theater?

Michael 02/03/2013 at 12:10 PM

Amy N-B,

Unfortunately no, see post #12 above. Thanks for the kind words though!

Brett F 02/03/2013 at 5:51 PM


I see the shell of a failed theater. I do not see a future theater. If the Byrd struggles…and it does…this would not have a chance. Time to adapt to a new use.

Eric S. Huffstutler 02/03/2013 at 8:47 PM

People who know me or have seen my posts over the years knows I am usually the first to voice an opinion especially when it comes to historic properties.

Bottom line is that there are two main areas of concern everyone has:

1) The exterior look (both preservation and/or changes)
2) Parking

To me the plan above looks aesthetically pleasing and within the guidelines of preservation without being overly modern. And it seems that Bilder is trying to address the parking issue. I am also glad that they will be rebuilding the old marquee as well.

Anyone who purchases this building would need deep pockets to restore this large of a building and in the shape that it is in. You can’t slap a paint on it and call it restored.

It has been closed since 1970 (over 40-years) and the chain of owners have had good intensions over the years but a study was done when the building was gutted that a movie theater was not financially feasible in this area so repurposing began. But it has been a blighted property for years and again demolition was stopped with my involvement. I would think that when someone of this caliber, even with the Johannas connection, is better than nothing happening at all.

So don’t jump to conclusions before the project even gets started.

The only thing I am hoping is cosmetic and that is to sandblast the exterior bricks back to natural as the building was originally in the 1930s, and have someone who knows how to cut windows into brick (like done at the Cold Storage building) so they look like they have always been there and not sloppily patched around the perimeter of them.


Eric S. Huffstutler 02/03/2013 at 9:44 PM

Also, not that I wasn’t against having a movie theater in this building… I would have loved to see one there again. But since it was completely gutted down to dirt floors and all walls as well as the entire roof was removed, it is only a shell to work with and all new interiors would have to be reconstructed. Having a place that plays retro movies would be great in our area and bring in outsides BUT then you would have to have WAY more than 13 additional parking spaces to handle a 700-seat theater! Here is a link on Flickr that has a set of photos of what it looks like inside:

Also the smaller old Lee Theater at 934 W. Grace was designed by the same person but the brickwork is different. A photo of what that looked like in 1937 with the original style marquee (like should be on the East End Theater here) is seen .


Theater neighbor 02/04/2013 at 1:08 PM

A good redevelopment project for the Theater is a worthy goal and will be a boon to the neighborhood. But the latest proposal, though improved from the original, needs a bit more work. The City Zoning Office had several complaints about the plan that should be addressed:

1. 24 units, some under 500 square feet. These units are not in keeping with the neighborhood scale and density. Fewer units of at least or more than 500 square feet is more appropriate.

2. The proposed addition is too close to north property line, 4.5 feet. Adding a 3-story wall of windows will greatly affect the historic residential property next door. City recommends 10 feet.

3. Proposed parking lot across the street from the theater includes a new cut-through to 25th St. which will impact foot traffic and the visual flavor of the street. Should be accessible only through the alley and be screened by landscaping.

4. Trash removal is not designated in the submitted plans. The addition, as designed, goes to the rear property line with no room for garbage receptacles without encroaching the alley. A plan to handle 24 residences and a commercial space is needed.

The developer, to his credit, is hosting an information meeting to present the plans (“incorporating…feedback” from immediate neighbors) on Tuesday, Feb. 5, 6pm, at the Family Resource Center, 2405 Jefferson Ave. This is the neighborhood’s opportunity to see how the developer will address concerns raised by the City Land Use office, as well as neighbors. It will also help all interested parties get up to date facts about the Theater rehab project.

Eric S. Huffstutler 02/04/2013 at 5:20 PM

I can see where the building is a bit shoehorned into the site because it was built in 1938 while the Post Office and OMG was built in the 1950s-1960s which was apparently the original parking for the theater. Then there wasn’t an issue but by 1960 the theater was already going out of business due to constant robberies and vandalism and its doors closed by the week of March 29, 1970. Church Hill was basically a ghetto and blighted with many houses abandoned by then so outside traffic was also nill. I doubt that they had much business between 1960-1970 so parking wasn’t a big issue (most of the old movie houses by then went to Adult XXX before being boarded up). And of course trash wasn’t that big of an issue either because I know they were not filling the 800 seats two to three times a day either to create garbage.

I am hoping they will work it out, especially the parking but they also need to try and generate income that is in accordance to square footage per unit and the fewer the less income.

Michael 02/05/2013 at 9:55 PM

So according to tonight’s presentation, the reduction in the number of planned theater apartment units based on pushback from the City has made the need for the parking lot at 2407 E Marshall Street and the building at 313 N 24th unnecessary. However, Josh’s attorney claims he is also interested as a separate project in the 24th Street Building across from the fire station and the adjoining parking lot. So why is the city saying the E Marshall parking lot and 24th Street building can’t be sold except to Josh Bilder because they are necessary for the theater project’s development?

Alex 02/06/2013 at 7:56 AM

@85 – I guess he called “dibs” or something…

Alex 02/06/2013 at 8:04 AM

If the two are unrelated, I would think Bilder should be the last person they should be holding this for then. It’s not a great idea for the city to have so many parcels tied up in the hands of one developer. Big dreams don’t always materialize around here.

If Bilder gets the theater completed, he should be allowed to submit bids for the other parcels just like anyone else. Until then, the city is giving preferential treatment to someone with a lot on his plate already?

Let the neighborhood renewal wait until Mr. Bilder is ready!

Churchhillian 02/06/2013 at 10:14 AM

I would love to see the Ardent guys who brew on Jefferson move into the 24th street building. They have been a fixture in the neighborhood for years and have some of the best beer in town! Rumor has it that they are looking for a place of their own and I think that would be a PERFECT location!

Lo 02/06/2013 at 11:03 AM

I attended the meeting last night and the plans have been updated to reduce the number of units from 26 to 24 while an improvement still raise concerns. #83 is spot on and I found it odd that we did not receive more concrete answers to the questions raised.
My biggest concern at this point is the proposed parking lot across the street which appears to take up both open property lots. Are we as neighbors comfortable with two properties being developed into a parking lot which will never be anything else? How will those adjacent homes be impacted by traffic and lights? How will the traffic flow work getting into and out of proposed lot? The proposal presenters acknowledged more needed to developed in their proposal regarding the parking lot but I am not certain that there will be another public hearing outside of the City Council voting on the proposal. At this point I wish the proposal didn’t include a parking lot. Honestly there is plenty of parking along that area of the 25th corridor. I certainly want responsible development and more residents on the Hill to help foster our growing district; however, I don’t want the payoff to be a bunch of parking lots around our old and historic neighborhood. This is an urban landscape not a suburban strip mall! I wish more residents would attend these types of meetings and express their concerns in that format not just on this site.
Can someone please help me understand the rationale behind these types of development proposal meetings being “run” by the group making the proposal? It seems logical that the City would “run” the meetings, have all involved parties (Proposal team, City Dept of Planning & Development, Zoning, etc.) make their proposals, discuss the City’s recommendation and solicit citizens’ feedback at the same time. These meetings continue to make me question our City’s intentions involving these proposals. We see some drawings, vague sketch of the plan, acknowledgement from developers to citizens that more work is required to their plans and then ….surprise this plan is now up for a final vote at City Council. As a citizen in an Old and Historic Neighborhood, I cannot build a fence, shed, any change to outside of home, choose certain paint colors, certain window coverings, etc. without obtaining appropriate CAR approval but there seems to be a different set of rules for developers. I would like to see more City involvement upfront, more detailed plans from developers and organized detailed discussions with the surrounding neighbors and concerned citizens.

Dear Neighbor 02/06/2013 at 1:53 PM

Im surprised to see negative comments about a developer hosting a neighborhood meeting to solicit the neighborhood’s comments. Couple things: based on the formal process created by the City, the developer was going above and beyond to reach out. The Planning Commission meeting is the first City forum for neighbors, so here the developer had reached out weeks or months in advance. Second, aren’t we as neighbors really throwing spaghetti againsy the wall comments at this project? Some neighbors say they want one designated parking spot per tenant; others say parking lots are bad. How are the City decision makers and people who want to invest in out neighborhood supposed to discern our comments? I don’t think it’s the City’s fault. A lot of this vitriol is just being uninformed about the process itself. It’s your City. Call City Hall.

Kim 02/07/2013 at 12:38 PM

I attended the Tuesday night meeting and I have been following the discussion on CHPN. I knew I was bothered by the curb cut onto 25th Street which would break the pedestrian friendly nature of the street. Now I realize, thanks to Lo, that it is the parking lot in general that disturbs me. Once it becomes a parking lot it will always be a parking lot and a gap in the street face. It makes me think about Union Hill that has been decimated by parking lots. While the developer did not tear the buildings down for a parking lot it does set a dangerous precedence in my mind to not in-fill vacant lots on 25th Street with buildings but rather to use them as parking lots. For 25th Street to be a vibrant residential/commercial street it needs buildings not parking lots.

I would also like to comment on the suggestion to sandblast the exterior brick on the theater. If that is done, they should just tear the building down. Sandblasting damages the hard fired shell on the exterior faces of the brick and exposes the softer unfired interior to the ravages of water and freeze thaw action — sort of like removing the candy shell from an M&M.

Finally, there is a surprising amount of historic fabric left on the interior of the building despite the missing roof. The lobby, stairs, balcony, projection room, raked floor, stage at the west end, and yes, even some decorative plaster are still in place. The experience of the dramatic transition from the low ceiling of lobby to the high volume of the theatre is still very evident. It would be nice if the interior plans could reflect something of the building’s former use and spaces. Frankly, a requirement of the historic tax credit program.

Sam 04/21/2013 at 5:45 PM

To Lo, Builder IS CAR….that is he is a developer on the Committee for Architectural Review. That’s what makes it harder for you and easier for him. For those of you who don’t know him, I have had dealings with him and he is out for the money only. He cares not what AnY of you think.

Sam 05/11/2013 at 3:02 PM

Bilder has applied for multiple variances. His plans, as of April are to build 39 apartments and along with a commercial space.


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