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The Sydney Condominiums

Situation: After housing the Hanover Avenue Christian Church for nearly 90 years, the building was decommissioned for worship, leaving neighbors concerned about its future use. After two developers failed to present ideas that alleviated local issues with density and parking, Monument put in a contract contingent on rezoning. Working collaboratively for over 10 months with local residents, Monument gained approval for a lower-density conversion of seven units with parking shared with Allen Avenue neighbors.

Challenges: Until now, our Monument team had only renovated single-family homes in the Fan District. At 23,000 square feet, the church was six times larger than any previous project. At the same time, five of the proposed condominium units sold quickly, leaving us no room to delay the September 2004 completion date. The first obstacle was removing the sanctuary, constructed of 1 ½-inch thick asbestos plaster. As new architectural details were uncovered, we replaced compromised wood trusses and girders, then adapted the units’ layouts. Just as we had the project end in sight, tropical storm Gaston hit Richmond in late August, bringing a foot of rain and causing leaks throughout the building.

Resolution: After Gaston, our Monument team worked 34 days straight to address the resulting issues, allowing the first owners to move into their new homes in October. The project gave our founders deep insights into how to negotiate with local residents and government leaders to develop final project plans that satisfy everyone.

“Johnson and Dickey, both 34 and former frat brothers at Virginia Tech, felt that same calling when they bought the church for $460,000 – a literal leap of faith for an upstart company. They had to clear hurdles with Richmond City Council, the Fan District Association and neighbors before obtaining a special use permit and zoning change to convert the church.

In homage to the Fan’s past, they named their project Sydney. ‘In the Fan, historically, there was to be a township called the Sydney, and the streets in the Fan were plotted as part of this township,’ Johnson said. ‘It never fully came to fruition, but most of the road and site plans in the original plan are the roads we have now.’”

- Richmond Times-Dispatch, Oct. 20, 2007