Historic downtown Newport News property to get planned $20 million makeover – The Virginian-Pilot

Historic downtown Newport News property to get planned $20 million makeover – The Virginian-Pilot

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A newly designated historic district in Newport News has attracted a developer ready to turn a former department store property into apartments and retail space.

Richmond developer The Monument Cos. plans to spend more than $20 million to turn the former Newport News Shipbuilding offices at 2800 Washington Ave. into 91 apartments and 3,000 square feet of first-floor commercial space.

Monument Cos. principal Chris Johnson said company leaders became interested in the property after downtown Newport News became designated as a historic district by the federal government earlier this year.

“We liked the location,” Johnson said. “It’s sort of right up our alley, in terms of historic rehabilitation projects that we do.”

The designation allows developers to claim federal and state tax credits when redeveloping historic properties — a process that allows them to pay less on annual state and federal taxes or share in savings with investors through the formation of limited liability corporations, according to the Virginia Department of Historic Resources.

The Monument Cos. had used the programs to finance several redevelopment projects, like turning the former Virginian-Pilot offices into apartments or a vacant Norfolk school in Colonial Place into apartments and townhomes.

In October, The Monument Cos. purchased the Newport News property for $3 million from the city, Johnson said. He said rent prices for the units haven’t been determined yet, but estimated monthly rents would be about $1,400 for one-bedroom units and around $1,700 for two-bedroom units.

The retail space will be consistent with a desire by city officials for a walkable downtown district, Johnson said.

The Monument Cos. is redeveloping the former Newport News Shipbuilding offices into 91 apartments and first-floor retail space. As seen Wednesday, December 13, 2023, in Newport News. (Stephen M. Katz/The Virginian-Pilot)
The Monument Cos. is redeveloping the former Newport News Shipbuilding offices into 91 apartments and first-floor retail space. As seen Wednesday, December 13, 2023, in Newport News. (Stephen M. Katz/The Virginian-Pilot)

The building has lived several lives this past century, according to a request for proposals from the city’s development department. The original building was constructed in 1937 as a Montgomery Ward department store. Another store building, for W.T. Grant, was added in 1949.

For decades, the property was owned and operated by Virginia Specialty Stores. In 1994, the city’s economic development authority purchased the property and leased it to Newport News Shipbuilding. That company used the building as offices until the lease expired in 2022.

Florence Kingston, Newport News development department director, said in an email the adaptive reuse project would revitalize the city block.

“The Monument Cos. have been great partners and have a proven track record delivering similar projects in other communities,” Kingston added.

The project does not yet have a name but Johnson said it would most likely play off the building’s historic past. Construction is ongoing, and Johnson said the project would be ready by 2024 or early 2025.

Trevor Metcalfe, 757-222-5345, trevor.metcalfe@pilotonline.com

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