Downtown is set to gain over 300 more residents as another central business district office tower is highlighted for new uses.
Vakos Cos. plans to convert the Wytestone Plaza building at 801 E. Main St. into apartments.
Vakos purchased the 17-story building for $3.5 million in 1997 and has since operated it as an office building with the Virginia Department of Social Services as its primary tenant. There was also a bank branch on the ground floor for many years.
Formerly known as the Ross Building, Witeston Plaza was built in the 1960s. Its age makes it eligible for a historic tax credit, which helped spur the decision to change its use, said Lee Shadbolt, president of Commonwealth Architects, which is designing the transformation.
“Mid-century modern buildings over 50 years old qualify for the historic investment tax credit. This is our first large mid-century modern building,” said Shadbolt. . “The fact[Vakos]was able to get a tax credit. When we were renovating or modernizing the building, we realized it was possible. This is the important part.”
The approximately 280,000-square-foot building has three floors of underground parking and ground floor commercial space. There used to be a branch of Wells Fargo but currently vacant. The commercial space will remain part of the conversion, while the floors above will house tenant amenities such as lounges, offices and a gym.
The remaining 15 floors will be a mix of studios, one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments, averaging about 1,000 square feet, Shadbolt said.
“(The units) actually get bigger the higher you go. It’s not just a stack,” he said. “This building has three different layouts as the structure gets taller.
Shadbolt said Vakos plans to have the apartment ready within the next year and the conversion will be straightforward.
“We won’t change the stairs or elevators, or change the exterior or the circulatory core. Much of the infrastructure will remain the same,” said Shadbolt.
Vakos is seeking a special use permit for the project because the building does not meet the requirements for openable windows in residential units.
Engineering firms Daniels & Associates and Dunlap & Partners are also working on the project, according to plans.
Wytestone Plaza is the second office tower to be considered for apartment use this year. In the spring, Genesis Properties will Purchase 2 properties owned by Dominion Energy, including the 8th & main office building which will be transformed into 300 apartments. Genesis also purchased a nearby parking lot and plans to build 300 more apartments on top of it.
Between the Genesis and Vakos projects, 900 new apartments are in the CBD pipeline. Shadbolt said he expects more to come, especially conversions that take advantage of historic tax credits.
“I think we’ll definitely see more. We see the same thing every year, but people keep coming back to the city,” he said. “In 2000 it flipped. People left the city. Now the number of people living in urban areas is increasing. They are closer to the city center.”