Welcome to…

Project Carver

PROJECT CARVER is planned as a community hub, blending the best features of innovative local food and micro-retail with cowork and “third-place” gathering spots. Located in Richmond’s Carver Industrial Historic District, the project celebrates the old and the new, creative work and leisure, the recycled and the up-cycled.

Project features will include the restoration and adaptive reuse of the 1910 Virginia Railway and Power Company substation, a food hall of ‘Original-To-Richmond’ food concepts, a micro-retail center featuring local makers, and a cowork center
for small and emerging businesses.





Preserving the Substation

The historic two-story substation at Harrison and Clay was built in 1910 by the Virginia Railway and Power Company as an electric-generating substation. It housed motor-generators and switching equipment that was used to power Richmond’s internationally recognized electric streetcar program.

The building, later known simply as the West Substation, featured an exterior designed to be compatible with the other industrial district buildings of the area and featured seven-course American-bond brickwork, wide door and window openings with rock-faced granite lintels and smooth granite sills.

The main room was subdivided into two spaces by a row of steel columns that supported a 12’ deep “switch gallery” mezzanine along a portion of the east wall. The 25’-wide, two-story area that held the motor-generator area accommodated a large “fish-belly” crane that rolled from north to south, designed to shift or replace the motor-generators. Three large iron ventilators were spaced above this room. The motor-generators were augmented by transformers and oil switches along the east wall on the first floor, and by a voltage regulator on the north end of the main room.

Fortunately, for those who admire the design of these vintage industrial structures, the building, the crane assembly, and supporting framework are all in excellent condition and waiting to find new purpose with a new generation of Richmonders.

Our Story

In 2019, the Carver Area Civic Improvement League approached Future Cities with the challenge of how best to preserve and re-purpose a decommissioned Dominion Energy substation located at the center of their community. The substation, built in 1910, was noteworthy as one of 13 structures that made up the Historic Carver Industrial District. It was also the only building not adapted to a residential use.

To Future Cities, finding new civic value from such an historic site was an intriguing challenge, both in creating new community uses, but also in its design potential as a representative of an industrial no-frills style. Its architecture was as much an efficient machine as it was a building.

Through conversations with local area businesses and residents, the project evolved from simply an adaptive reuse project to include elements that would be complementary in both program and design: a community gathering place, a food hall, micro retail and co-workspaces. These additional uses could be created from up-cycled maritime shipping containers, also a product of industrial efficiency.

Following two years of program analysis and case study research, interviews with area residents and members of Richmond’s food scene and the local maker community, a concept began to emerge.

The resulting development, Carver Place, is imagined as a bridge from a previous generation of city-builders and entrepreneurs, to a future one. It is designed as a melting pot where people with diverse interests and ideas can come together.

The ‘Crane Room’

Vibrant, sustainable communities have a center – a town square, a gathering place for meeting friends and sharing news.

The restoration of the West Substation historic building will provide the Carver community with an authentic core, grounded on 110 years of history, appropriately scaled and in balance with the residential uses adjacent. The redevelopment of West Substation will solve for a missing community venue – flexible in use and diverse in programs.

Some of the many uses imagined for the new space include:


  • Convertible space that will allow for gatherings of up to 250 people – an authentic ‘industrial style’ space for receptions, for retreats, and for special community events
  • Daytime CoWorking. An upper-level mezzanine that wraps the two-story main hall can accommodate up to 50 people on a separate level overlooking the assembly space on the lower level.
  • A bar for wine and mixed beverages. Ideally located below the existing mezzanine, it also provides a venue for Wine and Spirits education


Micro-retailing is a retail model that includes things like small-scale pop-up shops and boutique storefronts that leverage a variety of innovative downsized activities. Lately, micro-retailing has been growing in popularity as merchants and makers experiment with opening lower-risk physical retail spaces.

Micro-retailing can provide small local merchants and Richmond-area makers with perks that standard storefronts can’t. These benefits also spotlight why some merchants seem to favor smaller spaces, adjacent to other like-minded retail operators.

At Carver Place these benefits are compounded by the mixed-use nature of the mixed-use design, which creates a continuous flow of visitors to the food hall, and a resident population of office workers.

If you’re a maker or specialty retailer, we want to hear from you.

• What micro-retail concepts would you like to see at Carver Place?
• If you are a Richmond-area maker, tell us about your business.
• What kind of micro-retail concepts would you like to see Carver Place?

The Food Hall

The trend in Food Halls nationally is evolving in a number of ways, but there are a few things that haven’t changed; any Food Hall’s success is still dependent on a celebration of regional or cultural authenticity and farm-to-fork approaches rather than mass-market concepts.

The Food Hall at Carver Place will feature quality and diversity sourced from an experienced Richmond regional local food ecosystem. Using upcycled shipping containers as the primary organizing unit, space will be made available for up to twelve local food vendors and micro-restaurateurs.

Each container, approximately 8’ X 20’, will be organized around a covered multipurpose area that can serve as a common dining area. We want to feature unique food programs and seasoned operators who desire to be part of a new and original Richmond experience

If you’re a chef or food entrepreneur, we want to hear from you.

• Can you imagine yourself, or your small business as a Member/Tenant of Carver Place
What features are of most value to you in your business?
What type of space or membership has the most appeal to you?

“A niche working community between coworking and traditional office leasing is realized in the ‘office pod’, a modular system derived from the dimensions of a maritime shipping container”

Micro-Office & CoWorking

Carver Place is designed to serve an eclectic variety of entrepreneurial work environments, from modern co-workspaces, to dedicated desk areas, to innovative private offices.

Maritime shipping containers will be organized to create micro-office ‘work pods’, providing larger and more uniquely identifiable spaces for new and small businesses.

Similar in concept to coworking programs, Carver Place allows for startups and incubator businesses to have more of an identifiable brand presence, but still benefit from shared infrastructure.

We are in the process of determining the features and benefits of these programs, as well as affordable lease rates and terms that will be offered to tenants.

We’d like to hear your thoughts, needs, and interests:

• Can you imagine yourself, or your small business as a Member/Tenant of Carver Place
What features are of most value to you in your business?
What type of space or membership has the most appeal to you?