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VCU to demolish Franklin Street Gym to make way for $121 million STEM building

VCU to demolish Franklin Street Gym to make way for $121 million STEM building

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The former home of the Virginia Commonwealth University basketball team is getting demolished.

The university’s board of visitors on Friday unanimously signed off on the demolition of the Franklin Street Gym to make way for a new building dedicated to science, technology, engineering and math education.

Meredith Weiss, VCU’s vice president of administration, said the gym, located at 817 W. Franklin St., is scheduled to be demolished in the spring.

The original gym, which was at 805 W. Franklin St., opened in 1952 with about 500 seats as the home of the Richmond Professional Institute Green Devils.

VCU was formed in 1968 when the institute merged with the Medical College of Virginia.

A new gym — an addition to the original building — opened in 1970 and seated 1,500 people, according to the Richmond Free Press. Some VCU games, though, were played at the Richmond Coliseum. The final men's basketball game at the Franklin Street Gym was played in the 1978-79 season.

The Franklin Street Gym is now mostly vacant, except for a few classrooms and offices. The university’s main gym is on Cary Street, and the basketball team plays in the Siegel Center, which opened in 1999.

In its presentation to the governing board, the university said the Virginia Department of Historic Resources does not object to the demolition and that the building is not a “contributing structure” to the Franklin Street historic district.

The new building is planned to have 34 teaching labs, a facility for math instruction, computer labs and two large-capacity classrooms, among other things. It also will have specialty classrooms for students to learn about chemistry, biology, physics, math, psychology and kinesiology, the university said.

The state is paying for the entirety of the $121 million project.

“The new STEM facility will provide a state-of-the-art learning, research and collaboration space in a location that is in the heart of the student community,” VCU President Michael Rao said earlier this year when the plans were just announced.

The six-floor, 168,000-square-foot STEM building is being designed by Ballinger and Quinn Evans and constructed by Hourigan. It does not yet have an official name.

PHOTOS: VCU's Franklin Street Gym

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