varunner

The Locks at 321

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I don't think we should give up hope on some towers yet.

You have to look at Richmond as a whole.  Neighborhoods like Manchester, Scott's Addition, and Shockoe Bottom have been slinging apartments and office space on the market at an unprecedented pace.  

Building tall buildings is expensive.  If you're a developer, you're probably looking at the hundreds and hundreds of apartment units coming on the market in Richmond that are taking advantage of lucrative tax credits or (now prime) land that was bought for close to nothing.  Do you really want to be the van guard of high-rise apartments when we're unsure at what point the absorption rate will slow down?  When all of your competition is working on significantly better margins than you?

Also, while not big brand new buildings, within the last 5 years the 15th (First National Bank) and 13th (Central National Bank) tallest buildings in RVA both were completely converted to apartments.   We also had The Edison Apartments (> 10 floors) come on the market recently as an historic rehab.

If I were a high-rise apartment developer, I wouldn't want to compete with those for unsure market absorption.

The same goes for office space.  You have Manchester and Scott's Addition slinging out new office space continuously.  Especially if you're cobbling together tenants rather than renting to one who has needs that could not be met by an office in Scott's Addition, Manchester, The Fan, etc.

The good news is that abandoned warehouses are drying up quick and there is no more land near downtown to be had for pennies.  Once this happens, the prime place to add more units and office space will be downtown and the only way to financially justify building on such high valued land will be to build big and tall.

 

EDIT:  To give an example, the rehab of the 23 story CNB cost ~$20m + ~$5m purchase to get ~200 apartments.  They also get historic tax credits.  This new 12 story apartment with ~240 apartments is going to cost ~$60m not including accusation fees.   The square footage is probably a bit different, but you see what new development has to compete with right now.

Edited by RiverYuppy
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35 minutes ago, Wahoo 07 said:

Regrettably, I agree.   It should be noted that many European cities lack substantial height but offer a compact, cosmopolitan, human-scaled, urban experience.  Perhaps this is Richmond's destiny. 

I'm not going down that easily.  I think there is still a tall future for Richmond.  Sure, it can be depressing sometimes to see these sort of proposals, but we can help affect some change in the way developers are thinking now.  I'm not going to leave it up to fate.  I'm going to, at least, be vocal about my opposition to things like this large cube WVS wants to plop down in a prime location.  If WVS wants to stay in the good graces of the community, they will change their design, but we have to let our views be known!

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10 minutes ago, RiverYuppy said:

Also, while not big brand new buildings, within the last 5 years the 15th (First National Bank) and 13th (Central National Bank) tallest buildings in RVA both got completely converted to apartments.   We also had The Edison Apartments (> 10 floors) come on the market recently as an historic rehab.

Well said.  Also add the recent conversion of #12, 8th & Main (20 floors).  I still wish Dominion would sell their old tower for conversion and built the second tower West of their site but oh well.

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Well here's the RTD article for the "tower":

http://www.richmond.com/business/local/story-apartment-tower-slated-to-rise-in-the-locks-development/article_ad9b7177-4ed7-549a-847e-75ecf89fd003.html

the sites set for demo Dec 4th

I'm still kind of mulling it over, it's better than nothing, but it's still not great.

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 Chiming in, finally, on this one.  Trying to remain positive over the new design,  yeah i wish it was the tower that was proposed. Feel the building now is so deep that taller and narrower may have been better proportion but it looks to be this one so will have to get along with it.   My hope is it turns out better in reality than in renderings.  Also think the hotel on the opposite end balances the development,  bookends of similar sizes complimenting each other, will have to wait and see.  I can't tell if it will stand out and look odd or will river front towers look dated because of it. 

Edited by Hike

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11 hours ago, Icetera said:

Well said.  Also add the recent conversion of #12, 8th & Main (20 floors).  I still wish Dominion would sell their old tower for conversion and built the second tower West of their site but oh well.

Thank you! I'll admit I actually like One James River Plaza and kind of am going to miss it when it is inevitably torn down for the 2nd twin....would much rather they expand downtown westward by building on one of the large, whole city block sized (!!) lots in Monroe Ward.

 

I actually don't mind seeing  Richmond become a dense, endless stretch of continuous 8 to 15 storied buildings. One big long ''high spine'' from what actually is downtown right now to Monroe Park where VCU has the tall dorms. The bland but tall buildings on Franklin like the old Radisson (currently Graduate Hotel) in Monroe Ward can serve as the connecting pieces. Monroe Ward IMO is the biggest opportunity this city has.

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I seriously can’t get over the fact it’s only 12 floors on prime land and right next to riverfront plaza awful awful it dwarfs this new apartment building. I’d hardly call it a tower. I hope city council scraps it. Let someone else come in and build something taller on it. Such a shame.


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10 hours ago, Hike said:

 Chiming in, finally, on this one.  Trying to remain positive over the new design,  yeah i wish it was the tower that was proposed. Feel the building now is so deep that taller and narrower may have been better proportion but it looks to be this one so will have to get along with it.   My hope is it turns out better in reality than in renderings.  Also think the hotel on the opposite end balances the development,  bookends of similar sizes complimenting each other, will have to wait and see.  I can't tell if it will stand out and look odd or will river front towers look dated because of it. 

With regards to the new Hyatt, that was my thought as well.  I suspect that, without a hotel component, going too vertical here was too risky financially for WVS.  Whatever happens to the site, there  needs to be  a strong, conspicuous pedestrian link from the CBD to the canal on 10th Street. 

Another quibble with the rendering:  it shows the project keeping the diagonal parking on Byrd street.  Those spaces should go and the sidewalk extended outwards.  It could create a pleasant, pedestrian friendly promenade that provides another connection between neighborhoods.  Lining it with trees would help buffer the view and sound of the interstate too.  Not a big thing, but it would be an improvement. 

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39 minutes ago, wrldcoupe4 said:

Absorption isn't really the issue (there's plenty of demand) so much as it the current market rents. New, highrise construction is EXPENSIVE, and our rents do not support the cost. Even if a developer wanted to build it, a lender wouldn't lend on it. Rents are appreciating and we are getting close, but we're not their yet. 

Office space is a little different, but similar. With very rare exception, speculative office space with no leasing commitments does not happen in a market like Richmond (all new office buildings downtown have had a committed anchor tenant - Williams Mullen Center, MWV, Gateway Plaza - McGuire Woods, Riverside - Troutman Sanders, etc etc). Again, no one would lend on the project (see  the dead Locks at 321 project). And new office rents need to be much higher, a prospect for which most companies in Richmond have no interest.

We're getting closer on the market rents for residential, and if the tax bill kills the tax credit program (I'm very opposed to killing the program), it will likely escalate rent costs given pent up demand, in turn making new construction more feasible. The market will need adjustment. Lenders, developers, and residents have grown accustomed to the structure the tax credit program has provided.

Thanks for this explanation!  So glad you are a regular on this board!  Makes sense.

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See this project on a builders exchange,  so it's out to bid.  A fairly aggressive schedule, think it was 22 months, starts January early. This is the image from the RTD.

5a13608f3297a.image.jpg

Edited by Hike

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Yeah, the RTD article said demo on the warehouse starts the 4th, really aggressive timeline. Part of me thinks that they know they have a dud of a design (especially compared to what was proposed before) so they're rushing to get it built before any sort of opposition can get organized.

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14 hours ago, Hike said:

 

5a13608f3297a.image.jpg

It’s just going to be painful to have to look at this piece every time you see a photo or catch a view of the central business district downtown.  Why, Richmond, why?!

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55 minutes ago, wrldcoupe4 said:

I find the facade leaves much to be desired, but if they have all approvals in place to move forward, on what grounds can the city step in?

Architectural review I would think.  Has the city issued a building permit yet?

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Did a little side x side of several recent buildings that are dotting our landscape.  Many of the designs have a "flat" facade and are not as architecturally interesting as stand alone buildings, is that safe to say?  As a comparison, what I've noticed with the Grace Dorms is that the new surrounding buildings on Grace street, both North and south side of the street, make a nice perspective looking east as a pedestrian, creating a vanishing point of buildings which is a nice urban feature.  What helps is that the street is tight and the buildings are not taken at face value but as a whole.  Looking at the new Gladding residence, a similar environment, but the park is to one side and more of a sit alone there, but still neighboring buildings similar sized like the Altria Theater, long range views east into the city are nice,  seems to work so far.  The Locks 321 is going to have difficulty "nesting" in there as the adjacent buildings  are  either low or very tall and then to one side is the expressway so an interesting perspective challenge with not much hope of new similar sized buildings coming in to nest up next to it.   With that said, more people living downtown, along the canal and in the city in general is a very good thing, restaurants, bars, shops, etc. etc. will love this and I hope more people living downtown is right around the next corner.  

 

5a204a945802c_locks321.thumb.jpg.cfcaa36cc4fe70f07a7be23319bf3109.jpg

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I think the new dorm on Main Street looks great.  The building looks nice and it really frames the park nicely, looks imposing from a variety of angles (especially looking West up Cary Street).  

This proposed building is looking a bit similar but lacks the mass and,  like you point out, context.  I’m happy to see anything on that lot honestly.  I’ve grown old waiting for sites to be developed around Richmond.  It could be  another 10-20 years before anything better is proposed for that site.  I’ve been in Richmond for  about 30 years and have seen dozens of large scale proposals wither and die. 

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6 hours ago, Wahoo 07 said:

Architectural review I would think.  Has the city issued a building permit yet?

Doesn’t CAR weigh in only on old and historic district restrictions?

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11 hours ago, wrldcoupe4 said:

Doesn’t CAR weigh in only on old and historic district restrictions?

I believe so. I don't think they would have any say in this building.

Also the Grace Street "dorms" mentioned above are not actually VCU owned. It's a private apartment building. However it probably rents out to 99% student haha. Just thought I'd mention that.

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I kind of like The Square for some reason. But that being said it looks eons better than the Locks tower proposed. Like Wahoo says this is one of the rare times I actually kind of hope the city forces some kind of redesign

Edited by RVA-Is-The-Best
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Below is a rendering of a current residential project going up near the Pentagon in Crystal City (I drive by it everyday).  I would think that WVS could/should redesign their short and fat monstrosity to make it look more like one of these two residential towers (each tower has about 226 apartments).  These are 20 stories by the way and just one of them would look awesome right next to Riverfront Plaza!  I'm looking at you WVS!

Just for comparison - the poorly designed box will hold 237 units and they are charging a premium for rents!  A taller glass design would just be far and away better!  Might even fetch a higher rent.

Altaire-Crystal-City.jpg

Edited by eandslee
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