What will become of it now? Starbucks, said one of the contractors who was inspecting the building. Amie Oliver, a painter who worked there for two years, heard him say it was likely that Starbucks was very interested in the space. Makes sense: the structure’s corner location, next to a grocery store, would seem to be a desirable combination for the coffee-shop megachain.
Winks confirms that the new owners foresee a Starbucks in the building, along with, perhaps, an ABC store and a few apartments upstairs. The city planning commission is considering a request to rezone the property from light industrial to commercial.
In March, John Woodward, director of economic development, said that his office had been working with Starbucks, as well as local and national developers, for more than a year and a half. He wouldn’t reveal the locations being considered, but said the arrival of Starbucks would be an important indicator of revitalization downtown. “They see the growth going on and they want to be part of it,” Woodward says of Starbucks, which currently operates nearly 6,000 stores worldwide, including nine in the Richmond area.
Everyone in the studios knew a change was coming, Oliver says. They had seen the “scrub lot” next door become the Market at Tobacco Row, the empty warehouses transformed into loft apartments. “I’m just as curious as anyone to see how it all turns out,” Winks says of the rebirth of the building.
Still, the artists are disappointed at losing the place. Not only will it be hard (“impossible,” says Graves) to find affordable studio space elsewhere, but they’re sorry to leave. “I think it’s unfortunate that the creative class, the people who have stayed there and kept the buildings from being abandoned, that there’s no place for them in all that,” Oliver says. Melissa Scott Sinclair
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