The planned sale of GRTC’s old bus depot on some of the most coveted real estate in the city may not be the financial windfall it seems for the chronically-underfunded transit company.
GRTC built the depot at West Cary Street and Davis Avenue with federal funds — and what the federal government giveth, it can taketh away.
GRTC may have to reimburse the U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Transit Administration (FTA) as much as 80 percent of the proceeds from its sale, David Green, GRTC’s CEO, acknowledged in an email to Richmond magazine.
The property was developed in 1902 for nearly $2.7 million, of which $2.15 million was federal transportation funds, according to GRTC records.
That means the sale of property has to follow FTA guidelines, one of which says that in an outright sale, GRTC must give the federal government a share equal to the percentage it invested in the original grant, minus sales costs. An FTA spokeswoman says that until the agency's lawyers have looked over GTRC's proposal, it is too early to say whether and to how much the feds would be entitled.
Another option would allow proceeds to be put toward a replacement property. Yet another would allow the organization to apply what it makes from the sale to another capital project with FTA approval.
Green directed further questions about GRTC's plans to the transit company's spokeswoman, Carrie Rose Pace, who would not say in what direction GRTC is leaning. “We don’t want to limit the type of proposals we receive,” she says, adding that the transit company was communicating with the FTA about the sale.
GRTC issued a request for proposals for the site of its old bus depot at 101 S. Davis Ave. last week. Bounded by Cary Street, Robinson Street, Grayland Avenue and Stafford Avenue, the 7-acre site has nine buildings totaling 112,000 square feet. It's located at the foot of the Cary Street shopping district and represents a rare infill development opportunity at a time when the city's population is growing. The city assessed the property at $1.38 million in 2015, according to property records. The most recent appraisal was conducted in April 2010 by Integra Realty Resources, which valued the site at $5.4 million, Pace says.
The request for proposals, which closes July 8, says the transit company wants to receive the “greatest value” and “the highest return” from the property’s sale. That does not only mean cash or a fat check, Pace says, adding that GRTC is open to “creative” pitches.
“Value does not necessarily mean dollars,” she says, declining to elaborate further.
If GRTC receives proposals that include property or assets other than cash, Pace says, they will consult with the FTA on how to proceed.
GRTC has scheduled a June 10 walkthrough of the property. A decision on the property’s future could be made as early as mid-September.
The bus depot was built in 1902 on land purchased for $418,000 in local funds. When the city of Richmond and Chesterfield County formed GRTC in 1973, the property was transferred to its possession. The transit company shut down shop in 2010, and moved to a new facility on Belt Boulevard. Cleaning up the Fan District property cost the transit company $295,000. It has since been used for the RVA Street Art Festival.