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Gas up the bulldozers

David Larter March 19, 2012 14


One of Richmond’s biggest home developers thinks 2012 is the year to start building again — and in a big way.

Bob Atack filed plans with Henrico County last week to build an estimated $200 million, 650-home development in the Varina section of Eastern Henrico. Construction for the development, called The Ridings, will start in spring 2013. New homes will be finished by the end of 2014, he said.

“It’s going to take some time to build out,” Atack said. “So we believe by the time we actually get the houses online we’ll have the opportunity to have the Ridings be a destination community.”

Atack said Varina is fertile land for development in Henrico.

“We’re starting to see a scarcity of lots in the western portion of Henrico, so it makes sense that people would start looking in the southeastern part,” Atack said.

Also last week, the commercial brokerage CBRE announced that Atack Properties purchased another 172 acres for $2.1 million for industrial development and a residential parcel called Hockett in Henrico County.

Atack said the industrial land would likely be used for warehouse, factory and office space and that he was evaluating the Hockett land for more new homes.

The Ridings, roughly oriented around Turner and Long Bridge roads near Interstate 295, would preserve about 300 acres of the parcel for open space and recreation, Atack said, including jogging and riding trails.

Atack said he aims to attract buyers who work in downtown Richmond and at the Innsbrook office park because both are about 20 minutes from the site.

The site also features about 40 acres of wetlands and a stream.

The new home market has shown flickers of life in recent months with numbers beating expectations in February, but only after taking a dip in January.

The Wall Street Journal reported last month that year-over-year home sales were up 3.5 percent from 2011 but that the median price for new homes was down by almost 10 percent from the previous year.

And Atack isn’t the only one bullish on new home construction. Gray Stettinius, co-founder of Tuckahoe Creek Construction, said he’s seeing more activity, too.

“Homes in the $250,000 range have been coming back for some time, and homes in the $400,000 [range] are starting to pick up noticeably,” said Stettinius, a former president of the Richmond Home Builders Association.

Tuckahoe Creek, which focuses on $800,000-plus homes, is starting to get nibbles as well, something that has not happened in years, Stettinius said.

“When times were good, we had two or three projects we were building and three, four, five people we were talking to seriously about new projects,” he said. “Right now we have four of five people we’re talking to seriously, and that always comes back first. That just wasn’t happening last year.”

More reading: Go west, young man, a Q&A with Bob Atack. 


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  1. John Myers March 19, 2012 at 7:02 am - Reply

    Great time to begin massive development…

  2. Ashe Cordle March 19, 2012 at 7:55 am - Reply

    Why not take that $200 MILLION and change downtown? Take the decrepit, abandoned, blighted building there and turn that into a destination location? Think of all the good that could come out of that kind of investment. Even if it’s just a block or two with well constructed, thoughtfully designed homes with green spaces, it’s a start! It would be nice to see more developers stop taking farm land while there are so many lots already zoned residential in the city. Heck, he could buy every out every house in my subdivision, level and rebuild for less than that AND revitalize my neighborhood and bring this section back to life!

  3. DaveM March 19, 2012 at 8:08 am - Reply

    @Ashe.. One word. “Taxes”. It’s far cheaper from a tax perspective to build out in the boonies than in the city of Richmond. Majority of people in metro area are still automobile dependent too.

  4. Cynthia Oliver March 19, 2012 at 9:26 am - Reply

    I agree Ashe! And actually, Dave, what he suggest would allow a developer very attractive tax credits. How do you think all the construction so far has been done? Leave the farms & rural areas & revitalize Richmond is my vote.

  5. Matt March 19, 2012 at 9:31 am - Reply

    Yuck…..sounds nasty. Prefer reading about infill and renovation projects. Sometimes I feel like I am the only person in the metro area who finds the far western portions of Henrico and Chesterfield counties to be utterly repulsive; hope Varina doesn’t get bit by the same bug. Sprawl stinks….

  6. Dennis P March 19, 2012 at 10:21 am - Reply

    Three cheers for Ashe and others with similar opinions. Why build so many more brand new, automobile-dependent houses further away from work when there has never been more existing, renovate-able homes already attached to water, sewer, fire dept, public transportation, etc., etc.?

    • james March 19, 2012 at 10:30 am - Reply

      Dennis, there are fewer homes available for purchase today than have been available since the mid 1990s, and fewer new homes available than at any time since the mid-1960s. Both of those numbers have been shrinking for a year. With the economy getting better, people who moved in with friends and relatives are going to want to start looking to live independently again. By the time the end of 2014 comes around those homes will be snatched up so fast you won’t be able to keep track.

      Not everything can be renovation. There has to be new homes, if for no other reason than to add to the property tax base so property taxes don’t increase. And the fact is many people don’t want to live in the crime-ridden city. Do they not deserve a choice?

      • Dennis P March 19, 2012 at 12:02 pm - Reply

        Thank you, James, for the statistics. You have some good points, although I am sure some folks may choose a different way to describe a city than “crime ridden.” Perhaps a compromise? First finish building out the new subdivisions that have been slowed due to lending and employment pressures?

  7. james March 19, 2012 at 10:24 am - Reply

    I guarantee the East Henrico No-Growth Mafia will fight Atack’s plan no matter how much open space he allows, how few homes he builds or how environmentally-friendly it is.

  8. David Armentrout March 19, 2012 at 10:36 am - Reply

    A moratorium on cash proffers would stimulate (I hate to use that word) the local economy. Scores of builders, site companies, electricians, plumbers, etc., etc. would be put back to work and the taxes generated by all of this would far exceed the revenue from proffers, especially when nothing is being built because of high proffers. I know “Reganomics” is a bad word to some, but I think it works! Companies can’t pay taxes and permit fees if they’re not working.

  9. Andrew March 19, 2012 at 10:50 am - Reply

    Well the development has at least one perk to it and that is that the commute to downtown from Varina is only a few minutes. I personally don’t think now is the time to start it and we certainly don’t need 650 more homes in the area but Atack wants to spend some money by all means let him.

    • Tim March 19, 2012 at 12:43 pm - Reply

      Yeah, the commute is only a few minutes now, but you know what, it wasnt that long ago the same thing was said about Short Pump…been there lately…try getting around anywhere in that area in a few minutes….

  10. Brenda Mead March 19, 2012 at 10:53 am - Reply

    Its great to see so much support for in-fill building an renovation in the City of Richmond. As 10 year residents of the Fan, we made the commitment to stay in the City, use public transportation, shop, dine and get our entertainment within 2 miles of our home. We love it!

  11. Craig Kilpatrick March 20, 2012 at 8:14 am - Reply

    The city is a great place to develop or redevelop but in case you haven’t noticed things are fairly picked over. The city has already been transformed to a large extent as a result of the tax credit program and things are not slowing down. There’s still plenty of opportunities but a lot of the better sites have been snatched up. The major problem with the city though is that young families with children don’t want their children going to city schools. I am a developer and this is a fact. The better schools are found out in the counties and this will drive development as things continue to improve. Eastern Henrico will see significant development in years to come because western Henrico is built out and Henrico Co. doesn’t have the rediculous cash proffers that Hanover and Chesterfield have. Atack isn’t going to have any problems with “no growth” groups because his property is already zoned. That ship has sailed. He’s good at what he does and he’ll build a nice product.

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