Key Players

Owner Apple Hospitality REIT

Architect PFVS Architecture

General Contractor DPR Construction

Civil Engineer Timmons Group

Landscape Architect Timmons Group

The First Freedom Center, a museum dedicated to commemorating freedom of religion and conscience, was constructed as part of a real estate agreement with the owner and operator of two new Marriott hotels in downtown Richmond’s historic Shockoe Slip area. As with many projects located in crowded urban areas, the new building and its constrained site were challenging from the start.

Only a limited section of an adjacent street was available for staging equipment and materials, so the project team developed a logistics plan to synchronize hourly deliveries from offsite locations.

During excavation, the proximity of multiple historic buildings precluded the use of blasting. Subsurface rock was removed using a hydraulic ram through a series of drilled holes, while water was pumped from the site to keep the deeper excavations dry. Because excavations produced mainly rubble and other debris, suitable fill for foundations had to be brought in. New utilities were woven through the existing infrastructure network, while the closure of a public alley required relocating an existing sewer line to the other side of the site.

Completed museum exhibits mark the U.S. adoption of Virginia’s 1786 Statute of Religious Freedom, which was written where the project is located.

A 7,000-sq-ft outdoor plaza was designed to draw the public to the front steps of the hotel and museum while maintaining private and flexible space for hotel guests within the gated courtyard.