VCU purchases building containing Ipanema Cafe, among other businesses

Ipanema is located in 917 W. Grace St building, photo by Teairrah Green

Jack Glagola, Contributing Writer

VCU’s Real Estate Foundation purchased the building that includes the vegan restaurant Ipanema Cafe, hair salon Presidential Cuts and recording studio Verify Sounds earlier this month, according to an email statement from the foundation. 

The foundation said it is in contact with the businesses at 917 W. Grace St and is assessing another building, 919 W. Grace St., for the university’s needs.

This property is one of many that the university has purchased along Grace Street. These acquisitions and other ventures are part of the ONE VCU Master Plan — the university’s project to fortify the Monroe Park and MCV campuses through hundreds of millions of dollars in investments, such as large-scale maintenance and construction projects. 

VCU plans to convert Grace Street into a “campus main street,” according to the plan’s booklet.

Seth Campbell, the owner of Ipanema Cafe, said that contrary to popular belief, he anticipates no changes, the acquisition only brings different management.

“There aren’t any major thoughts or plans to be out of this space in the coming months or even years, I’d say, in terms of this building or the next. I’m sure there was hype about that,” Campbell said.

He said the acquisition was hardly a surprise and was handled by the previous owners of the property.

“It happened and was in the works for a while, it seemed, just in terms of how long we’d seen VCU walking through this area,” Campbell said. “But in terms of them approaching us or that kind of conversation, there was nothing like that because we don’t really have control.” 

Campbell said he hopes that the management change can be a positive one.

“We certainly have high hopes that some issues that we were having beforehand in terms of communication — or the lack thereof — and lack of transparency or consistent, open, honest dialogue about what’s going on with the place hopefully won’t happen,” Campbell said. 

Casey Rae Crosby, the owner of Verify Sounds, said he was looking forward to the change.

“I don’t see any negative thing about it. It’s right in the middle of campus, I’m surprised it didn’t happen sooner,” Crosby said.

Crosby said he is excited to see the city growing and changing.

“I went to VCU, and I’m from Richmond. So any type of growth that happens around me right before my eyes, I’m just excited to see it,” Crosby said.

A current worry is whether VCU’s plan to develop Grace Street will affect local businesses, which may close or move, according to some students.

Hannah Diment, a fourth-year communication arts student, said that Ipanema and other local businesses on Grace Street are spaces for the community.

“I feel like most of the buildings around there anyway aren’t accessible to students. They’re [the buildings] mostly offices, so taking away space from students for their [VCU] own means probably wouldn’t benefit us,” Diment said.

Brendan Bellingham, a fourth-year criminal justice student, said that buying up properties can be detrimental to parts of the community.

“You talk to people that lived here before, and they don’t like how much they’ve bought up. I talked to a homeless guy about how Monroe Park used to be a safe haven for the homeless and now VCUPD can’t have that. People forget that it’s a business,” Bellingham said.

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