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VPM Media Corp. announces new Monroe Ward headquarters

render: five-story glass-front building with prominent VPM logo etched into the face.
VPM Media Corp.
This architectural rendering of future VPM office at 13-17 E. Broad St. is not final.

The organization, which operates VPM PBS and VPM News, expects to break ground in 2024.

VPM Media Corp. and the Virginia Foundation for Public Media announced Wednesday that it is building a new headquarters in Downtown Richmond.

The nonprofit’s new site is currently a surface parking lot located along East Broad and Grace streets in the Monroe Ward area, between North 1st and Foushee streets. VPM is currently headquartered in Chesterfield County at 23 Sesame St., which was built in 1964.

“We're thrilled to come into that location in the heart of Richmond and activate what has been a parking lot for decades,” Jayme Swain, president and CEO of VPM Media Corp. and the Virginia Foundation for Public Media, told VPM News last week.

Swain said her “best guess” for breaking ground would be early spring 2024. Move-in is slated for early 2026.

“One of our challenges is VPM is not like an office space, we literally are going to need to flip a switch,” said Swain, who said supply chain issues and rapidly changing technologies are among the challenges of moving into a new building. “If we ordered something now, it might be end-of-life when we hope to move in in two or three years.”

The project will consist of two buildings with a parking deck in between, VPM said in a press release. It is expected to be funded by the foundation and a community fundraising effort.

A five-story, 53,700-square-foot building facing East Broad Street will have audio, television and digital content production studios.

VPM operates public television stations VPM PBS, VPM Plus, VPM PBS KIDS, VPM Create, VPM WORLD, as well as VPM News and VPM Music. VPM Media Corp. also operates Style Weekly, which it purchased in 2021.

Swain said current efforts have been focused on designing the new building's exterior, but VPM is planning for a street-level community studio and event space: “Imagine a regular studio, you would see it now with the lights and cameras, but an ability to do community events there and have that transparency from the public from the Broad Street side.”

VPM already has a presence downtown through the VPM + ICA Community Media Center, located in the Institute for Contemporary Art at 601 W. Broad St.

“This building just amplifies that times 10,” Swain said. “I think we'll still continue to partner with the ICA, but this will also enable us to do some of those same things — but on a grander scale.”

Grace Street building render: living greenery wall with high ceilings and lit VPM logo
VPM Media Corp.
This render of the planned Grace Street–facing auxiliary building is not final.

There will also be a one-story, 1,500-sq. ft. building constructed facing Grace Street.

Flexible design, including how the parking deck is utilized, was a principle VPM sought out with SMBW architects.

“I can't see what the next 60 years is going to look like. But this should be our building for the next 60 years,” Swain said. “How do we build it in a flexible way, and also use this as an opportunity to help VPM diversify its revenue stream and continue to support our operations?”

Considering the location’s history played into the decision-making process as well, Swain said, who called Broad Street’s history a divider along racial lines, while being a major “connecting” transportation artery as “complex.” One of the new building’s neighbors will be a trailblazing Black-owned business.

And the site’s history also reflects continuing redevelopment issues in downtown Richmond, balancing housing needs, historical development and transportation.

In 1886, a large building eventually became the home of The Charles Store, which stood on the site from 1936 until 1987, when a fire broke out as the building was undergoing conversion into apartments. Police suspected arson at the time.

The owners rejected a bid by the Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority in 1989 to build mixed-use housing. The property was eventually purchased by a developer, who built parking.

At the time the developer had sought to demolish historic theaters on Broad Street and said the parking lot would be “the best-looking” one downtown, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch’s reporting at the time.

VPM Media Corp. still needs to go through a permitting process, which will include historic review of the design to make sure it fits into goals for the area’s architectural character. Richmond City recently removed parking minimums for new development, with City Council members citing property operator’s ability to lease or rent existing parking spaces.

Disclosure: VPM Media Corp. is the FCC license holder of VPM News, which operates as 88.9 FM in Richmond, 89.1 FM in the Northern Neck (Heathsville) and 90.1 FM in Southside Virginia (Chase City). VPM also produces VPM News Focal Point, which airs on VPM PBS.

As a newsroom, VPM News maintains editorial independence — this article went through our usual fact-checking and editing process. Station leadership did not know interview questions ahead of time, and they did not view this article prior to publication.

Questions about this article and VPM News’ overall editorial policy should be directed to Managing Editor Dawnthea M. Price Lisco and News Director Elliott Robinson.

Updated: June 21, 2023 at 6:58 AM EDT
June 21, 2023, 6:57 a.m.: This article was adjusted to include finalized square footage of the planned construction.
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