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BizSense Beat: Sept. 22, 2023

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BizSense Beat is a weekly collaboration between VPM News and Richmond BizSense that brings you the top business stories during NPR's Morning Edition on Fridays.

Here’s a recap of the top stories for the week of Sept. 22, 2023:

Governor calls for changes after VCU Health’s costly downtown development exit
Reported by Richmond Bizsense’s Jonathan Spiers

VCU Health’s costly exit from an ill-fated downtown development project has prompted calls for organizational and procedural change from Gov. Glenn Youngkin.

In a letter dated Sept. 19 to House Speaker Todd Gilbert and Senate Rules Committee Chairwoman Mamie Locke, Youngkin urges the Virginia General Assembly to make changes to the VCU Health System Authority’s governance structure, including the replacement of VCU President Michael Rao as chairman of the authority’s Board of Directors.

Youngkin also recommends changes to how the authority reviews and evaluates significant capital projects, in light of the health system’s exit from a $325 million development that would have replaced Richmond’s old Public Safety Building with a multi-building complex that VCU Health would have anchored.

VCU Health ended up paying $73 million to back out of its 25-year lease for that project, referred to by administrators as the Clay Street Project, and continues to pay additional costs that Youngkin said could end up totaling $100 million.

Land deal clears way for income-based apartments at Manchester crossroads
Reported by Richmond Bizsense’s Jonathan Spiers

An apartment building planned on a prominent intersection in Manchester appears to be a go after a recent land purchase.

Norfolk-based The Lawson Cos., which is developing a five-story building at the southeast corner of Hull Street and Commerce Road, closed Sept. 1 on the nearly 1-acre property.

Records show it paid $2.4 million for the four parcels that make up the site: 812 Hull St., 6 E. Ninth St., and 811 and 812 Decatur St. The project does not involve a city-owned parking lot that fills the rest of the city block.

The purchase amount appears to be as much as the project’s estimated cost, according to permits filed with the city that put the total construction value at over $2.3 million and site demolition at $30,000. The project is being funded in part using low-income housing tax credits.

State budget funds launch of self-distribution arm for Virginia breweries
Reported by Richmond Bizsense’s Mike Platania

Virginia’s beer industry had reason to raise a pint to last week’s signing of the state budget.

The General Assembly’s now-finalized annual budget included funding for the creation of the Virginia Beer Distribution Co., a new division of the state’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services that will allow breweries to self-distribute limited amounts of beer to retailers and restaurants while bypassing traditional third-party distributors.

The VBDC’s existence was made official last week when Gov. Glenn Youngkin signed the state budget after months of delays.

The new distribution company will offer Virginia breweries a limited way to side-step the state’s current “three-tier system,” that requires that breweries sell their product to a distributor, which then sells it to retailers and restaurants.

Owners of Cobra Cabana, Hot for Pizza opening ‘listening bar’ in Carver
Reported by Richmond Bizsense’s Mike Platania

Herbie Abernethy and Josh Novicki are dialing up their presence in Carver.

The duo, who own neighborhood restaurants Cobra Cabana on Marshall Street and Hot For Pizza on Leigh Street, have a “listening bar” in the works at 312 Goshen St.

Dubbed Space Mountain Hi-Fi, the new spot will be equipped with high-quality audio equipment for playing music on vinyl records, along with a full bar.

Also known as “audiophile bars,” the concept dates back over a century to Japan, where people would go to intimate cafes to drink cocktails and listen to rare records. In recent years these bars have seen a resurgence domestically, primarily in major cities including Los Angeles, Miami and New York City. Space Mountain will be the first such venue in Richmond.

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