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  Rosie the Riveter Visitor Center Coming in 2011
December 17, 2010

On December 15, Ford Point LLC, The City of Richmond and the National Park Service consummated a deal that will create a National Park Visitor Center in the Ford Assembly Plant Oil House with a goal of completion in time for the 2011 Home Front Festival in October.

Negotiations among the three entities have been going on for years. The sale of the Ford Assembly Building to Eddie Orton in 2004 carried a provision for a rent free 10,000 square foot space in and adjacent to the Craneway for a National Park Visitor Center. Following completion of the rehabilitation, all space adjacent to the Craneway had been leased, and all parties agreed that inserting the necessary tenant improvements in the Craneway to create a functional Visitor Center would detract from the magnificence of the vast space.

As a alternative, they settled on the Oil House, a free standing building  adjacent to the Boiler House Restaurant of approximately the same size as the previously committed 10,000 square feet in the Craneway. The Oil House is strategically located on the Bay Trail and also has access to substantial adjacent parking. In addition to interpretive exhibits and a theatre, the Visitor Center will feature a bookstore/museum store operated by Rosie the Riveter Trust, proceeds from which will go to support projects and programs in Rosie the Riveter WW II Home Front National Historical Park.

The hang up in the negotiations was Ford owner Eddie Orton’s reluctance to pay for rehabilitation of the Oil House to the same level to which the Craneway had already been done. No one could understand or agree with Orton’s position, but neither the City nor the National Park Service had the funding for the building shell rehabilitation, nor should they have had to pay for it. The impasse was finally broken by a suggestion that Historic Preservation and/or New Markets Tax Credits be used to defray the rehabilitation cost.

The City contacted Equity Community Builders, which had already successfully arranged tax credit financing for the Maritime Center and Winters Building (East Bay Center for the Performing Arts) rehabilitation projects.

With $3 million for interior improvements from the National Park Service that would have evaporated without a deal by December 15 and creative tax credit financing arranged by Equity Community Builders for the exterior rehabilitation, the deal was sealed. This relieved Orton from bearing the rehabilitation cost and broke the impasse without either the City or the National Park Service having to bear the cost.

The Oil House will continue to be owned by Ford Point LLC and leased to the City of Richmond at no cost except for utilities and services. The City of Richmond, in turn, will sublease the Oil House to the National Park Service.