Bon Secours is moving forward with plans to redevelop the Westhampton School property. The health system has applied to rezone the property in the Near West End, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports. There’s no guarantee the historic structures will remain intact, but the organization’s agreement with the city requires them to attempt to preserve them unless it’s deemed to costly or otherwise burdensome.
The fate of the historic Westhampton School at Libbie and Patterson, once in question, seems a little more secure–for now.
Bon Secours announced plans Thursday to build a medical office building adjacent to the school’s two original buildings, one built in 1917; a the second in 1935. The hospital system originally intended to demolish both after coming to the conclusion that rehabilitation of the aging structures would cost more than new construction. Neighbors and City Councilman Andreas Addison spoke in opposition to those plans, citing the school’s historic nature and architecture.
This week, an alternative to demolition was announced. The hospital system says it has found a way to build a free-standing medical office building on the Westhampton School property and leave the Westhampton School and its footprint intact for “a joint development project,” as the nonprofit said in a news release. This puts the ultimate fate of the school buildings in question, as it may leave the door open for future demolition or, alternatively, renovations.
The new plan allows for a three-story, 55,000-square-foot building to be constructed along Libbie Avenue between the Bon Secours Evelyn D. Reinhart Guest House and the Westhampton School.
Bon Secours is also soliciting proposals from private developers to jointly develop the Westhampton School site footprint, and will give priority to any partner who can endeavor to save “at least the most historically significant portion of the Westhampton School,” which it cites as the oldest building, which stands at the corner of Libbie and Patterson Avenues.
The statement goes on to say that “any future development and its tenants must be consistent with Bon Secours’ faith-based values and must complement the health care provided on the St. Mary’s Hospital campus.”
“Our team has pooled its resources at every level of the organization while working with the City of Richmond, City Councilman Andreas Addison, and architectural firm Baskervill and Associates to develop this innovative solution,” said Toni R. Ardabell, CEO of Bon Secours Virginia Health System. “Everyone’s hope is that this solution will bring the highest and best use to the Westhampton School property, meet the health care needs of the community, and honor our commitment to the City of Richmond and the St. Mary’s Hospital neighborhood.”
Bon Secours’ original plan was to renovate both school buildings to be used as the future Bon Secours Memorial College of Nursing, but terminated that plan on December 15th, 2016 after calculating costs.
“We appreciate the support we have had from Councilman Andreas Addison, Mayor Levar Stoney, local merchants, and most importantly, the neighborhood associations surrounding St. Mary’s,” Ardabell continued. “We look forward to seeking input from and working collaboratively with our community on this project.”
According to Ardabell, the hospital system has all necessary approvals and permits to build the medical office building on Libbie Avenue, and construction should begin by March of 2019.
Renderings of the proposed building can be seen below.