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After standing vacant for 12 years, the iconic Carter Glass Building at 863 Church St. will have a new business move in next year.
CloudFit Software will bring 139 more jobs in the first three years of operation in its new location in the circa-1931 Art Deco building next to Monument Terrace, as well as an estimated economic impact of more than $69 million.
The firm was founded in March 2018 by a group of former Microsoft employees. Co-founder and Chief Technology Officer Carroll Moon grew up in Pittsylvania County and refers to Lynchburg as his home city.
The company focuses on serving large companies and federal customers to help them use cloud computing and integrate it into the work they’re already doing with a data center. Cloud computing is the on-demand availability of computer system resources, especially data storage and computing power, without direct active management by the user.
“The customers of CloudFit are and will continue to be epic players in the technology space,” said Marjette Upshur, director of the city’s economic development and tourism department. “We hope to expand and attract more business in the technology sector while making sure CloudFit has everything they need to sustain and grow their business.”
CloudFit Software is a select Microsoft partner serving Fortune 500 and Department of Defense customers from its headquarters in a working space within the Lynchburg Regional Business Alliance building. CloudFit Software also has employees working remotely in 16 states. It has hired 90 employees to date.
“CloudFit is about enabling those companies to tie the two together,” Moon said. “They could have their own data center, which is old-world fashion, but the cloud is about the new world and there’s a progression there. CloudFit connects the two.”
Moving into the Carter Glass building is the first of many steps of expanding the business into other markets, and the building has been a target location for the business since day one, Moon said.
“Carter Glass designed the banking system for the U.S.; the Federal Reserve System exists partly because of his leadership and he did a lot of his thinking to change banking in that building. We believe we are doing the same sort of thing in the way we redefine how the world does computing,” he said.
Glass, the 47th U.S. Secretary of the Treasury under President Woodrow Wilson and a key creator of the Federal Reserve System, commissioned his son-in-law, Roanoke architect Robert McClanahan Allen, to design the landmark building for The News and The Daily Advance in 1930. His company published two papers at the location for more than 40 years. The landmark building stood empty in the 1970s after the newspaper moved to its current location off Lakeside Drive.
Moon said he wants to hire as many qualified employees in the city he can during the next few years.
CloudFit has become a “talent factory” where it trains high school students through a partnership with Lynchburg Regional Governor’s STEM Academy, and offers paid internships with high school and college students and college graduates, Moon said.
“It’s not just a company that showed up here,” he said. “I’m from Pittsylvania County and it’s important to me these jobs come to the area. We’re bringing Bay Area jobs to Lynchburg. It’s more than a company to us, we want to make a significant impact on the region and cities like Lynchburg around the U.S.”
The interior of the three-story, 24,480-square-foot structure will remain historical but will become a completely modern high-tech space. Moon called the design “historical high-tech.”
Anna Bentson, Lynchburg’s assistant director for economic development and tourism, said it was important for the city to find a tenant who would use 100% of the space for commercial use.
Some work has started on the building, but Benston said CloudFit Software won’t occupy it until late spring of 2020 at the earliest.
“This is a new industry sector for Lynchburg that has tremendous potential to scale in both jobs and investment,” she said.
Blair Godsey with Altus Group is redeveloping the building. He said he is in the final stages of receiving approval from the Virginia Department of Historic Resources (DHR) and has begun some exploratory demolition work on the building.
“We are getting ready to mobilize to put it all back together again. Everything will be new but we’re maintaining as much of the historical character of the building as we can,” he said.
The building will have a mix of open workspaces and private offices. A historic mezzanine will reopen on the second floor and the partly open and enclosed rooftop will be redeveloped into an employee amenity space and terrace.
According to Lynchburg’s online geographic information system, the property is assessed at $549,000.
In late 1978, the Carter Glass Building was gifted to the city and became offices for the data processing and IT departments, with the downtown post office on the first floor. Since 2007, the building effectively has been vacant, though portions have been used by the local government.
In late 2011, the city deeded the property to the Lynchburg Economic Development Authority so the landmark could be marketed for future use.
In 2012, the city had a feasibility study created for the building, and in 2014, the economic development authority sought out proposals from qualified developers for the purchase and redevelopment of the building. Upshur said the study helped to determine the significance of the building and its highest and best use for redevelopment.