Developers say Scott’s Addition offers location and a hip, industrial vibe
Scott’s Addition, one of the Richmond region’s hottest new development areas, doesn’t want to be the next Shockoe Bottom. It’s got what developers describe as an industrial, “kitschy” vibe that is drawing new retailers, restaurants and residents.
But that doesn’t mean the area, bounded on the north side by The Boulevard, on the west by Interstate 95 and on the south by Broad Street, isn’t without challenges.
Increasing property prices, parking, zoning and the unresolved question of whether Richmond’s baseball stadium will remain on The Boulevard are all factors that will influence developers going forward, the panel said.
Sponsored by the Greater Richmond Association of Commercial Real Estate (GRACRE), the panel discussion on Scott’s Addition drew 230 people to the Country Club of Virginia Tuesday. They wanted to know why the area has taken off and what opportunities remain.
Since about 2005, developers have been redeveloping industrial and warehouse spaces into multifamily, retail and office uses. According to the developers, about 120,000 people live or work within three minutes of the area.
“The demographics are good there. We’ve already got the things that Shockoe is trying to bring. The museum market is already there,” said Rob Hargett, a principal with Midlothian-based Rebkee Co., referring to several nearby museums, including the Science Museum of Virginia on Broad Street and the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts on The Boulevard.
Rebkee just completed a major renovation in the area, the $24 million rehabilitation of the former FFV Interbake Building on Broad Street into the Cookie Factory Lofts apartments.
Another developer, Scott Coleman, who owns the Lamplighter coffee company and several other buildings in Scott’s Addition, said the location of Scott’s Addition makes it a prime target for development. “It’s easy access to the highway. What makes it kitschy is its industrial vibe. It still has a lot of functioning manufacturers and distributors in there. “
Coleman said small businesses are looking for the same thing he was: a, clean modern space at a realistic price. Yet, that’s getting harder to come by.
As the area has grown in popularity, drawing new businesses such as Ardent Craft Ales, a brewery that moved into a renovated 1940s warehouse in June, land and building prices have gone up. “Valuations are No.1 the biggest hurdle we have,” Coleman said. “Parking is No. 2.”
The developers said they would like to see more two-way streets and connectivity throughout the area. In order to create a sense of place, people have to be able to get around, and it’s not an easy walk now for people in Scott’s Addition to get to either the museums or the Flying Squirrels ballpark, The Diamond, they said.
About a year ago, Richmond Mayor Dwight Jones proposed a $200 million plan to move the stadium to Shockoe Bottom as part of a larger mixed-use project, but the plan did not win council approval, so the future location of the stadium remains unresolved.
“We need an economic development plan for the neighborhood,” said Hargett, whose company has submitted a private proposal to keep the stadium on The Boulevard. He says his company has not heard from the city about the plan. “We all want to see the project solved through a public process. That’s the last piece for the puzzle,” in the area, Hargett said.
Richmond City Councilman Jon Baliles, who attended the meeting, agrees that a decision on the ballpark is long overdue. “It’s been more than a year. Something needs to happen,” he said in an interview with Virginia Business. “We looked at the major’s plan, and it didn’t pass muster.”
Richmond Braves, the previous minor league team in Richmond, left the city in 2008 after plans for replacing the aging Diamond stalled.
Another developer Charlie Diradour, president of Lion’s Paw Development, is bringing a Starbucks to The Boulevard and a Growlers to Go beer taproom to 1017 North Boulevard. The taproom is expected to open in time for the holidays, while Starbucks, with a sit-down area and a drive-through window, will open in early 2015.
Diradour envisions Scott’s Addition as a place where people can live, work and play. More density could work he said, “but it is being hindered by parking ordinances and zoning laws … We have to address the parking issue,” he said, or businesses may not want to continue coming to the area, because many of them need 8 to 10 places for employees.
Diradour also was critical of the city’s role in terms of providing food vendors on site during the summer sessions of the Washington Redskins training center located behind the Science Museum on Broad Street. “To take 3,000 to 4,000 people and say, ‘This is where you are going to eat,’ was a big mistake by the city,” he said, noting that the policy hurts local restaurants nearby who could benefit by a bump in business by one of the area’s largest tourism draws.
Going forward, Dirador thinks the area will continue to attract small, local businesses. The developers said they see room for grocery stores, a fitness center, art spaces and service companies, such as nail salons.