On July 16, 2013, we moved into the new One South Realty World HQ at 2314 West Main Street in Richmond’s Fan District.
And on October, 17, 2013, we won a Golden Hammer for ‘Best Commercial Renovation – Large Scale’ for our efforts.
After 5 years in our initial location at 1435 West Main Street on the eastern edge of VCU, we picked up and moved our stuff (without any real incidents, surprisingly) a whopping total of 9 blocks to the west.
The ‘Kickers Building’ as it was known (due to the paintings of soccer players on the side of the property) was an 8,000 SF warehouse built (beginning) in the 1920’s. Built in what appeared to be 4 phases, with each section differing in construction techniques, the property was largely open and filled with period materials ripe for rehabilitation. Pressed tin ceilings, terrazzo and concrete flooring, steel beam spans, glass storefronts and tons of exposed brick all combined to make this property an absolute must for a company such as ours to call home.
How Did This Come About?
Ben Partridge had recently come over from another brokerage and was anxious to get started reaching out to his network. Tom Rosman, partner at One South and head of the rapidly expanding Commercial Division, and Ben were discussing the best ways to connect with Ben’s client base. The subject of the Kicker’s building, owned by the Ripp family (Arby’s, Can Can), came up. The property, originally marketed to the restaurant community, met with some interest, but no offers. In discussions with the partners at One South, we decided it was a great fit for us.
The Ripp’s said ‘Bring us an offer….’ and so we did.
One of our favorite things about our new space is that it was sourced by One South for One South. Love it…
When the decision was made to pursue the project, we needed to assemble our team. While we spoke with several architectural groups, our long-standing relationship with David Johannas of Johannas Design Group and his team of Kim Chen (Architectural Historian), Andy Scudder, Doug Kleffner and Scott Corwin (Architecture/Design) ultimately made the decision an easy one. Dave and his team’s skills in designing in an urban environment as well as their excellent working knowledge of the Historic Tax Credit programs proved invaluable.
Another multi-time partner of One South, Monument Construction, was chosen not only for the physical construction of the property, but for their ability to act as financing consultant and to help broker the tax credits created by the project. Chris Johnson and Tom Dickey, principals, along with Scott Waters and Mike Marshall, Project Manager and Project Superintendent (respectively) were integral in getting the project from concept to completion.
Helen Reed of HL Reed designs also helped in getting our heads around the task of decor. Her numerous site visits and recommendations on how to source furniture and fixtures, select and coordinate colors and find inspiration were of great importance in getting the project performing as intended.
Famed local artist Ed Trask helped put some finishing touches on the space with his work on our entry wall and on the highly visible east wall. Along with Ed, the Glave Kocen Gallery has put some of their pieces on loan to help us fill the space.
Why Do This?
Our growth, combined with some not so subtle hints that the market was in recovery, told us it was time. We very much enjoyed our Fan District location and while our relationship with our landlord, Eck Enterprises, was superb, we knew that we wanted more from our space. We wanted to both create and occupy a space which spoke to us as a company and to our agents, as individuals. When the opportunity to secure this property presented itself, we knew it was something we had to do.
The property was eligible for Historic Tax Credits and was located both in an area where we wanted to be. It was also within an Enterprise Zone (HUGE Bonus!), came with ample parking (a MUST!) and allowed us to create the open space we so desired.
We entered into the project with the following goals:
- Create the long term home of One South Realty and One South Commercial
- Bring an old building back to life
- Enhance efficiency
- Design the space in such a way to visually connect the front and rear
- Build in the flexibility to hold educational and entertainment events
- Allow for growth
- Help our agents to back their individual brands
- Put our money where our mouth was
After many meetings with our team members, we were able to design the perfect balance of public and private spaces with sight lines connecting the entry and work points. The rear area (dubbed the ‘bullpen’) is visible when you walk in the front door and gives some subtle hints as to the volume of space in the back half of the office.
Different areas were designed with different personalities allowing agents to find a workspace in a formal or casual setting, depending on their need or mood. Our large conference room handles 10 or more comfortably and formally while smaller conversation areas can also be employed.
The Conference Room
Located front and center along Main Street, the conference room is big.
The typical need of our agents is for smaller 2-4 person meetings. However, with a rapidly growing commercial practice and our presence in the development community, the need for a larger meeting space was important. The light is phenomenal and the artwork provided by Glave Kocen really helps make the space.
The Curved Wall
As with many of David Johannas’s designs, curves are used to soften angles and to help energy flow. With such a squared off/retangular/90 degree warehouse, introduction of elements more ‘inviting’ were needed.
While we were at first stuck on ‘What the heck do we do with this curved thing?’ we eventually arrived at adding some natural elements to soften the austere brick, block, steel and concrete nature of the industrial property. We were able to secure some scrap wood, pick through it to find as many matching widths as possible, and attach it to the existing wall structure. Ed Trask was able to distress and age the wood to match the reclaimed nature of the warehouse. It served to match and balance the existing charm of the 100 year old building.
Comprising over half of the office’s total size, the Bullpen has multiple areas, functions and personalities.
Intertwining formal and informal work stations, private offices, full kitchen, 2 lounge areas, document processing and a very cool mezzanine area, the Bullpen has turned out to be even more of an integral part of the space than we originally anticipated. Multiple skylights and the reopening of the old garage door floods the space with natural light making it both inviting to the agents and interesting to their guests.
The eastern half of the property came with 16′ ceilings. The western half came with about 12″ less due to the roof slope. The ceiling height to the west allowed us to create a mezzanine level and add about 400 SF to the property and create an additional 6 work spaces.
It must be confessed that the expense of ‘The Mezz’ almost made it a casualty of the budget. I think in retrospect, the space would be far less visually compelling without it and I know I speak for everyone when I say we are quite glad that our architect and contractor put their heads together on how to keep the space and work within the budget constraints.
While the opportunity to buy an old building and spend a ton of money bringing it back to life feels both awesome and petrifying, it should not be done without a financial reason to do so. It would be safe to say that had the property not been eligible for Historic Tax Credits, this would not have happened.
The HTC Program has been the single most important economic development tool in Richmond in recent memory. Properties located in areas considered to be ‘historic’ become eligible for rehabilitation credits if the property is renovated in accordance with proscribed guidelines. The work done needs to be approved by The Department of Historic Resources both prior to starting and upon completion and if/when it is completed correctly, a credit is issued against both Federal and State income taxes for a large portion of the eligible expenses. Manchester, Jackson Ward, Scott’s Addition, Shockoe Slip and Shockoe Bottom have all been largely rebuilt with the use of these credit programs. When we look back on Richmond’s rebirth, these Historic Tax Credits deserve more than a passing mention.
While the credits we received were important in keeping the renovation costs low, the dual residential/commercial nature of the property is what allows the ongoing obligation to be offset. The property was renovated as a ‘mixed-use’ development with our office located in the front half and 5 apartments built in the rear. The property was zoned UB (Urban Business) and the day/night nature of the building’s use meant we could maximize parking and create the additional income needed to make the entire project feasible.
We were once asked what ‘Green’ elements we used when building the property. In reality, the ultimate in green is re-use and on that basis alone, we are about as green as you can get. Much of the building code now mandates the use of systems at a far greater efficiency than even those from just a few years ago. Likewise, by reusing much of the brick and steel we took down in demolition we were able to hold down material use and cost.
What we did not realize was how efficient the HVAC environment would be. The concrete floor does an amazing job of helping to regulate the temperature in the space and so far, we have received utility bills far below our expectations. Low use water fixtures and the new plumbing have been both environmentally and economically friendly thus far and somewhat surprising as to the lower-than-expected costs of supplying the building.
The biggest challenge thus far (if there has been one) is figuring out how to best arrange the space. 10 x 10 offices dictate furniture placement. 2,000 SF of open floor do not. As a matter of a fact, it offers almost an infinite number of possible layout, each of which has their own merit. ‘Should we put this here or here and should we turn it this way or that?’ have been questions asked often. And if you ask 10 Realtors how to do something, you will get 20 different answers. We are still learning how to best allocate and arrange but the ‘trial and error’ has been part of the process.
Ultimately, we are extremely happy with the outcome. Taking a 100 year old warehouse, involving architect’s, bankers, developers, Realtors, owners, designers, contractors, city inspectors, DHR and a host of others, is a quite an undertaking. It gives you both an appreciation of the complexity of the (re) development process and the capabilities of the folks who surround us.
We love our new ‘old’ home.