Close to the action: In the old Martha Jefferson, 43 new places to live

Photo: Stephen Barling Photo: Stephen Barling

Who wouldn’t want to live a short walk from the Downtown Mall? That’s an easy question to answer. Slightly trickier: Who wouldn’t want to live in an old hospital? In creating Locust Grove Apartments within a portion of the former Martha Jefferson Hospital, developer Octagon Partners aimed to make the building’s history a plus for potential tenants.

“This is a unique asset,” says Octagon’s J.P. Williamson. With the CFA Institute occupying the front of the former hospital, Locust Grove—in a section originally built in 1952—completes the “live-work” notion on this historic Downtown property.

Commonwealth Architects, a Richmond firm, designed 43 units on six floors, plus common areas including a TV room, exercise space and web lounge. A major challenge, said Williamson, was to comply with historic tax credit requirements, which meant that many existing elements couldn’t be changed.

The windows, for example, couldn’t move or change width—which, as Williamson acknowledges, is a good thing from a tenant’s perspective. “The windows in the apartments are much larger than you would typically put in a new apartment,” he says.

In the hallways, original flooring is preserved under an epoxy coat, lending an unusual look. “We wanted to give an early indication that you weren’t walking into your standard apartments,” says Williamson. “We really did want to highlight how these apartments are different.”

The interior design features a bold palette and style for the entryway and common lounge spaces, and the result is eye-catching. Aqua and lime hues play against dark industrial gray, and a mix of modern and vintage décor lends these spaces interest. Antique suitcases are stacked beneath the TV; big letters declare “OM” in the exercise room.

The look of the apartments themselves is more traditional: granite countertops, neutral palettes and hardwood floors. Leasing agent Nest Realty plugs the building’s energy-efficiency, with a Variable Refrigerant Flow system for heating and cooling that’s expected to dramatically cut every tenant’s energy costs.

One- and two-bedroom floor plans have open living/dining/kitchen spaces, and a bathroom for every bedroom. The first tenants moved in on New Year’s Day.

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