Mar 20, 2024 - Politics

Richmond's tallest building in limbo amid Youngkin tug of war with lawmakers

The exterior of a tall, ugly building

Richmond's ugliest building, per Axios Richmond readers. Photo: Ned Oliver/Axios

The future of Richmond's tallest building is in limbo amid a budget squabble between the legislature and Gov. Youngkin.

Why it matters: The state deemed the 29-story Monroe Building non-functional in January, citing unreliable elevators (workers have gotten stuck) and bathrooms that aren't ADA-compliant.

The big picture: Democrats in the state legislature unveiled a proposed budget that removed $50 million Youngkin had earmarked to demolish the Monroe Building and renovate Main Street Centre, aka the Virginia Lottery building, the Times-Dispatch reports.

  • They instead want to explore whether the state should build a new downtown Richmond office building to house the more than a half-dozen state agencies that currently work out of the Monroe Building.

Catch up fast: Last year, Youngkin's administration scrapped a plan to build a new downtown office building for state workers, citing the changing downtown office landscape.

  • In January, the administration shared specifics: Most Monroe workers would move to Main Street Centre, and the rest would be dispersed among other buildings the state already owns or leases, per the RTD.
  • All of the state workers were slated to be out of Monroe by July 2025.

The intrigue: Lawmakers also added language to the budget barring the governor from moving more workers, writing: "No executive branch agency shall be relocated permanently from the Monroe Building unless otherwise authorized by the General Assembly," per Virginia Mercury.

Fun fact: Completed in 1981, the Monroe Building is the tallest building in Richmond, one of the tallest in the state — and grand prize winner of Axios Richmond's 2022 ugliest building in town contest.

The latest: Parts of the Department of Education, and the agency's head, had already moved out at the start of the month when the General Assembly unveiled its budget halting the move, per RTD.

  • VDOE's administration, and some of its teams, are headed to Old City Hall, and those moves will continue, Dena Potter, a spokesperson for the Department of General Services, tells Axios.
  • Around 75 of VDOE's staff of 500 are going to Old City Hall, VDOE spokesperson Todd Reid tells Axios. The rest are slated to go to the lottery building, and they'll remain in Monroe for now.

What's next: The budget is in the governor's hands for now, and he could veto the proposed changes.

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