Richmonopoly

15(+) Story Office Building Planned for Downtown

233 posts in this topic

Plans call for building a 15-story building on the parking lot at East Cary and Eighth and Ninth Streets.  The tower could rise an additional six stories. 

 

After a look at the renderings I must say it is rather boxy, yet I was content given that it is an infill profject.  However, after watching the video (in the link below) and the simulated zoom from across the Manchester Bridge...this thing has got to be Richmond's tallest! 

 

Apparently they are reaching out to suburban firms to help heighten the building an extra six stories, but I hope Richmond firms can work together to pitch a signature tower that could be seen from all directions of the city.  And crown that baby! 

 

http://www.timesdispatch.com/business/local/companies/new--story-office-tower-planned-for-downtown-richmond/article_58f1daf2-6a6c-11e2-a4bf-001a4bcf6878.html

 

 

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The parking requirement is one of the things really holding this tower back.  To build higher (and attract tenants) you've got to have more parking.  To have more parking (and a signature-height tower), you've got to dig much deeper which increases costs dramatically. 

 

As soon as I saw all of this back in November, I could just hear the groans from the folks on this board.  The "good" news is that the developer is pretty optimistic that they'll get enough tenants to go to 21 stories.

 

It is theoretically possible that it could grow even more if there was some dramatic interest from a large tenant, but that almost certainly isn't going to happen given the vacancies that this move will create.

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I hope you're right JB...to get this structure to 21 stories will be one small step to make this tower better.  Now if they could just work on a better topper...a flat roof is just so drab (yuck)!

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A flat roof in almost any other city wouldn't be an issue...but in Richmond...

The last thing we need is another boxy building. The density and investment are great and that parking lot is currently an embarrassment. I just don't understand why someone would design this structure for our city. Even without increased height, more could be done to create more of a statement or visual interest. Though I am excited to see the lot developed and that this seems like it will actually get built, I just wish it was more inspiring after the excitement over the development fades.

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I have a question for JB. Has the developer considered a hotel for a tenant? Considering the occupancy rates, mixed use would seem ideal. Although that would still leave a parking problem for the developer. Also, this site is addressed in the city's downtown plan as being a prime site for a signature tower. Does the city or Venturerichmond have any influence over the bland design which closely resembles the Ross building on Main?

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I think this was a MW-driven effort to find a developer to build on the lot, not the other way around. 

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I agree with Oaktowntwinz.  A hotel topping out the so-called "Gateway" property should be marketed by the developer.  There have been hints in several development stories about the possibility of a new downtown hotel, although the Broad/Grace corridor seems to be the speculative site. 

 

What puzzles me (if I read the news story correctly) is that Maguire Woods now occupies 244K s/f in James Center, but will lease only 217K s/f on ten floors of the new building.  That smacks of building a new jail that will house fewer inmates than the jam-packed facility it will replace.

 

Speaking of hotels, VCU needs one badly (see eandslee's avatar for a rendering of a proposed (later abandoned) mixed use commercial/hospitality tower at the southeast corner of Belvidere and Broad Streets. 

 

And another thing!

 

Note all the open space west of 5th Street in the Related Video.  To me that belies the statement that the 'Gateway' site is the only property large enough for a signature tower.  In an ideal situation, the entire site bounded by 2nd, Main, 6th Streets and Downtown Expressway could be transformed in to the Emerald City with towers -- and rich investors. :thumbsup:

 

http://www.timesdispatch.com/business/local/companies/new--story-office-tower-planned-for-downtown-richmond/article_58f1daf2-6a6c-11e2-a4bf-001a4bcf6878.html

Edited by burt

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I agree with Oaktowntwinz.  A hotel topping out the so-called "Gateway" property should be marketed by the developer.  There have been hints in several development stories about the possibility of a new downtown hotel, although the Broad/Grace corridor seems to be the speculative site. 

 

What puzzles me (if I read the news story correctly) is that Maguire Woods now occupies 244K s/f in James Center, but will lease only 217K s/f on ten floors of the new building.  That smacks of building a new jail that will house fewer inmates than the jam-packed facility it will replace.

 

Speaking of hotels, VCU needs one badly (see eandslee's avatar for a rendering of a proposed (later abandoned) mixed use commercial/hospitality tower at the southeast corner of Belvidere and Broad Streets. 

 

And another thing!

 

Note all the open space west of 5th Street in the Related Video.  To me that belies the statement that the 'Gateway' site is the only property large enough for a signature tower.  In an ideal situation, the entire site bounded by 2nd, Main, 6th Streets and Downtown Expressway could be transformed in to the Emerald City with towers -- and rich investors. :thumbsup:

 

http://www.timesdispatch.com/business/local/companies/new--story-office-tower-planned-for-downtown-richmond/article_58f1daf2-6a6c-11e2-a4bf-001a4bcf6878.html

 

The floor plates are smaller than at the James Center, but the James Center floor plates are incredibly inefficient in terms of space used.  In terms of housing attorneys, having more interior (i.e., non-window) space isn't an advantage. 

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I have a question for JB. Has the developer considered a hotel for a tenant? Considering the occupancy rates, mixed use would seem ideal. Although that would still leave a parking problem for the developer. Also, this site is addressed in the city's downtown plan as being a prime site for a signature tower. Does the city or Venturerichmond have any influence over the bland design which closely resembles the Ross building on Main?

 

That is what bothers me the most.  The city's master plan is supposed to establish a vision and guidelines for future development.  It's as if no attention was paid to the master plan.  Here's the excerpt I think you're referring to:

 

http://www.richmondgov.com/PlanningAndDevelopmentReview/documents/PlansDowntown/Rich_Ch4_080509_lores.pdf

 

Terminate the Manchester Bridge vista with a signature building

 

The Manchester Bridge is a primary entrance from the south into Downtown. The bridge extends to 9th Street and currently terminates on a surface parking lot. This under-utilized property should be developed as a signature gateway building. This building should engage the pedestrian and respect the human scale. The ground floor should be dedicated to active, street-oriented uses such as offices, office lobbies, hotel lobbies, or shops, in order to engage pedestrians and contribute to the vitality of the street. Parking should be located in a mid-block garage that is lined on all sides with habitable space. It should have a clearly defined base, middle and top that relate to the function of each part of the building. For instance, the base carries the weight of the building and communicates directly with the pedestrian and the street level, the middle holds the majority of the program of the building and the top of the building engages the skyline and can serve as an icon for viewers from far away. A high-rise building at this location, built in the tradition of great American skyscrapers, could add to Richmond’s skyline. Although not required, this could be an opportunity to add a corporate landmark building to the skyline.

 

The following pages in the plan even describe the site as "a crucial vista" and provide conceptual renderings.  My question is: what the hell happened?  So disappointed.

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I'm as disappointed as you, believe me.  I think the sad reality is that a business case couldn't be made for that sort of iconic structure and if the city refuses to support this development, the most likely outcome is that the lot will stay empty for another 10 years.

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I'm disappointed by the lack of height too but I really don't get the obsession with this lot. It is a terrible lot and not suitable for a signature tower. Nothing on this lot can create any synergy, regardless of how sparkling or tall it is. To the west is the Dominion wall. To the east is the service entry side of the James Center (can we get ride of that stupid turn lane at the corner of Cary? It's insulting.). To the south is 4 travel lanes and a park that is too small and isolated to ever amount to anything. To the north is wall-to-wall parking decks (for three blocks) that are never going away. Build the fancy tall building elsewhere where it can spur development around it. There are plenty of spaces where this is possible.

As for the building we are going to get, I like the design. It looks contemporary and airy (the ground level is really attractively in a North West kind of way). I really like the look of the lobby and of the small plaza areas around it. It is an attractive building, nothing fabulous but it will compliment the surrounding buildings and will make the skyline look current.

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I understand both sides of the argument here...I understand the city's need to fill the space and I understand MW's need for a space that's practical, that they can use effectively.  BUT, wouldn't it be an incentive for MW to make the this a signature tower so that they can enjoy the prestige that goes along with an office tower that is the tallest, not only that, but also THE icon tower of Richmond (to match the quality of their services)?  Seems like that would be the best motivation to build something signature!  Someone has to have pointed this out to them - surely this has been considered, right?  I'd be surprised if not, but I don't know for sure.

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I'm disappointed by the lack of height too but I really don't get the obsession with this lot. It is a terrible lot and not suitable for a signature tower. Nothing on this lot can create any synergy, regardless of how sparkling or tall it is. To the west is the Dominion wall. To the east is the service entry side of the James Center (can we get ride of that stupid turn lane at the corner of Cary? It's insulting.). To the south is 4 travel lanes and a park that is too small and isolated to ever amount to anything. To the north is wall-to-wall parking decks (for three blocks) that are never going away. Build the fancy tall building elsewhere where it can spur development around it. There are plenty of spaces where this is possible.

As for the building we are going to get, I like the design. It looks contemporary and airy (the ground level is really attractively in a North West kind of way). I really like the look of the lobby and of the small plaza areas around it. It is an attractive building, nothing fabulous but it will compliment the surrounding buildings and will make the skyline look current.

 

Yes, I do have to admit that this building will be, at least, constructed with a shiny glass facade.  Really, this is a huge step forward for Richmond and, like you said, will modernize the city a bit.  Yes, I did say something positive about this development - in fact, after I was shocked at how short it was going to be, my next thought was how modern it looked.  Okay, enough of that...let's just get this thing to 21 stories...that will make me happier, even if it doesn't have a spire or some other ornate rooftop!

I'm as disappointed as you, believe me.  I think the sad reality is that a business case couldn't be made for that sort of iconic structure and if the city refuses to support this development, the most likely outcome is that the lot will stay empty for another 10 years.

 

I wish MW could read our posts.  Just saying because I think they could use a little feedback.

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I'm disappointed by the lack of height too but I really don't get the obsession with this lot. It is a terrible lot and not suitable for a signature tower. Nothing on this lot can create any synergy, regardless of how sparkling or tall it is. To the west is the Dominion wall. To the east is the service entry side of the James Center (can we get ride of that stupid turn lane at the corner of Cary? It's insulting.). To the south is 4 travel lanes and a park that is too small and isolated to ever amount to anything. To the north is wall-to-wall parking decks (for three blocks) that are never going away. Build the fancy tall building elsewhere where it can spur development around it. There are plenty of spaces where this is possible.

As for the building we are going to get, I like the design. It looks contemporary and airy (the ground level is really attractively in a North West kind of way). I really like the look of the lobby and of the small plaza areas around it. It is an attractive building, nothing fabulous but it will compliment the surrounding buildings and will make the skyline look current.

 

I believe the desire for a signature tower is less about the potential effect at ground level but more about how that location would create a central pillar within the core of the skyline.  Built in other available lots a signature tower may appear out of place when viewed from the ideal angles.

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I understand both sides of the argument here...I understand the city's need to fill the space and I understand MW's need for a space that's practical, that they can use effectively.  BUT, wouldn't it be an incentive for MW to make the this a signature tower so that they can enjoy the prestige that goes along with an office tower that is the tallest, not only that, but also THE icon tower of Richmond (to match the quality of their services)?  Seems like that would be the best motivation to build something signature!  Someone has to have pointed this out to them - surely this has been considered, right?  I'd be surprised if not, but I don't know for sure.

 

I think you need to understand that MW is not building the building and it only needs the 8 floors or so it is LEASING.  A law firm is not going to take on a huge financial risk to build a building 4X as large as it needs just so Richmond can have a signature tower and a developer is not going to build a building "on spec" in the hopes that it doesn't sit half empty (nor is a bank going to loan money for that).

 

I guaranteee that if Capital One or another large local employer came to the developer and said "we need 15 floors", that the developer would find some way to rework the plans to get 35 stories or so.  That would, however, require some seriously deep excavation and substantially increase the cost of the building. 

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I think you need to understand that MW is not building the building and it only needs the 8 floors or so it is LEASING.  A law firm is not going to take on a huge financial risk to build a building 4X as large as it needs just so Richmond can have a signature tower and a developer is not going to build a building "on spec" in the hopes that it doesn't sit half empty (nor is a bank going to loan money for that).

 

I guaranteee that if Capital One or another large local employer came to the developer and said "we need 15 floors", that the developer would find some way to rework the plans to get 35 stories or so.  That would, however, require some seriously deep excavation and substantially increase the cost of the building. 

 

Noted, JB.  You're absolutely right and here is the unfortunate part:  A Chicago developer is building the tower.  That means that they have no real emotional attachment to Richmond.  They don't care what the tower looks like - as long as it makes the tenant happy and provides them what they need, that is it.  So, no wonder this thing has a flat roof!  There's no personal pride of Richmond on the part of the developer!  We need a local or someone who is moving to town to stay, come and build their own tower, which will serve as Richmond's signature tower.  Thanks for helping me sort that out.  I feel better now.  The truth is, this project has no "love" attached to it...it's just an ordinary office building...unfortunately.

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I don't know, but I would be very surprised if local Richmond developers weren't invited to make proposals.  I take your point as to the architecture, but I think the height is what really bothers most people and I don't think a developer would be able to get bank financing for a 30+ story building without tenants lined up, no matter if they were Chicago-based or Richmond-based.

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Richmond has a signature tower, the Federal Reserve Bank.

Boxy downtowns can be pretty ( Seatte, Houston and Denver). Good density (and the density downtown is getting great) and a good relationship to the street are much more important and there isn't a building in Richmond that does street level better than this (based on the limited drawing... The new Children's Pavilion looks good too!).

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JB brings up some excellent points that remind us of the challenges faced by involved parties. I agree with

eandslee regarding the developer's lack of attachment to Richmond. Why did the city ask citizens to participate in the charrettes if the proposals are generally ignored? I am thankful that TBurban found the plans I was referring to. This is a crucial site, as indicated in the plan. All of us want the city to thrive. Believe it or not, Richmond's skyline is admired by many because it makes a statement about the city's importance. There are larger cities with smaller skylines and downtowns that lack the density that Richmond has. I don't think any of us are criticizing MW; we are happy they are supporting downtown. I can't speak for everyone. I hope the developer can be persuaded to consider altering the design and give Richmond a building to be proud of. The current design feels more like something we would be settling for.

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With the 8th-9th St. diagonal removed, how will one go from south 8th St. to cross the Manchester Bridge? Will 9th St. become two-way? Will there be a two-way stretch of Canal St? Or will you ahve to detour around to 5th or 10th?

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With the 8th-9th St. diagonal removed, how will one go from south 8th St. to cross the Manchester Bridge? Will 9th St. become two-way? Will there be a two-way stretch of Canal St? Or will you ahve to detour around to 5th or 10th?

 

On the website, there is a .pdf that has the official announcement on it.  Contained within the announcement are the details of resolving the traffic flow issues the building will create.

 

Something else I like about the website is that they are "selling" this building as a 20-story (not a 15-story) structure (with an extra story for mechanical - making it 21 stories).  I sure hope they get what they need for, at least, a 21-story building, but wouldn't it be great if someone pops up needing 10+ more stories?  I also still think they should consider a hotel, apartments, or some other use as well to make the building taller - I hope someone steps up and makes such a proposal.  I can live with the flat roof, as long as the building is tall. The Sears tower is boxy and has a flat roof, but it is tall.  I'm not talking about THAT tall for Richmond, but 30 - 40 stories is very doable in the Richmond skyline.  I can dream can't I?

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I can remember a while back that Dominion was looking to move downtown from their suburban, Glen Allen location.  Since they own the lot downtown, wouldn't it be neat if they could strike a deal to move into the tower as well?  If I'm not mistaken, I believe they were once thinking about building on that lot themselves if they could sell their Innsbrook office.  Only problem:  they haven't sold their Innsbrook office...but, could it be a possibility? Hmmmmm.....Just thinking out loud here.

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