The new owner of the 1 million-square-foot James Center complex has made a shift in the way it handles leasing in the trio of downtown office towers.
Bill Goodwin’s Riverstone Properties has ended its leasing agreement with Colliers International, opting instead to hire an in-house broker to oversee leasing, management and the multimillion-dollar renovations planned for the buildings.
The company has tapped Bruce Boykin as senior asset manager for James Center, luring him away from a similar role he held for nearly 20 years at Richmond-based Eck Enterprises, a major local landlord of residential and commercial properties.
Colliers oversaw leasing at the James Center prior to and since Riverstone’s $108 million purchase of the property in January. About a third of the complex’s office space remains vacant.
Boykin said he hadn’t planned to leave Eck Enterprises, but couldn’t pass up the James Center assignment, which involves being the point person for Riverstone’s efforts to modernize the 1980s-era buildings at 901, 1021 and 1051 E. Cary St.
“It was a fantastic opportunity to be involved with one of the best properties in Central Virginia,” Boykin said. “Leaving Eck was difficult because of my history with the renovations of the buildings and my relationships with the employees, tenants and the Eck family.”
Hiring Boykin falls into Riverstone’s strategy of managing and maintaining its own assets, principal Jeff Galanti said.
“This is related to a Riverstone philosophy of having hands-on management who are fully responsible for all aspects of their businesses,” Galanti said. “This philosophy is evident in our operating companies and hospitality assets like The Jefferson, Kiawah (Island resort) and Sea Pines (resort).”
Riverstone has engaged design firms in a competition to redesign many of the buildings’ common areas and lobbies, Boykin said.
Last week, Boykin said, Riverstone received renderings from the firms, with plans to announce the recipient of the architectural design contract this summer.
Riverstone also plans to overhaul some of the building’s mechanical equipment and replace all the elevators, Boykin said.
“We want to do this right, by making this the premier Class A office space in Richmond,” Boykin said. “We recognize the potential this property has given its location, and we want to make it more relevant and functional for today’s businesses.”
Boykin said the overall goal of the redevelopment is to change the dated appearance of James Center.
“There’s a lot of that we want to replace to make the lobby brighter and more inviting,” Boykin said in the lobby of the One James Center building. “We want to make the space more relevant to today’s workforce needs, which we hope will drive recruiting efforts for existing and potential tenants.”
Riverstone is looking to incorporate a shared conference room concept for the use of James Center tenants – an idea the group picked up after visiting ChamberRVA’s conference center, Boykin said.
Signage opportunities at the top of One James Center are available for a user who leases up large blocks of the contiguous 170,000 square feet available in that building, which includes about 15,000 square feet in the former Bull & Bear Club.
A pair of new restaurant tenants is set to fill the former Wendy’s on the ground floor of One James Center and the Very Richmond Gallery & Gifts in Three James Center. Boykin would not identify the tenants.
Changes at the James Center follow a wave of new office users moving into the downtown area, as companies, in part, look to woo millennials.
Most recently, Envera Health, which offers scheduling, referral and other services to health systems, announced in March that it will move into 27,000 square feet of office space in the Riverside on the James building at 1001-1101 Haxall Point.
Mechanicsville-based Owens & Minor announced in February its plans to take over 90,000 square feet on four floors of Riverfront Plaza’s East Tower.
Washington, D.C.-based CoStar Group has been adding new workers monthly to fill 732 new jobs at its new global research headquarters in about 100,000 square feet at the WestRock building at 501 S. Fifth St. CarMax set up an office in the 26,000-square-foot Lady Byrd Hat building in Shockoe Slip last year.
And International City Management Association-Retirement Corp., or ICMA-RC, announced last summer it will occupy 55,000 square feet in Riverfront Plaza.
In all, the corporate office moves represent roughly 1,500 workers returning to the city’s core over the coming months.
That may present an advantage to the James Center, as office space starts to tighten and asking rates begin to increase. The complex has nearly 330,000 square feet of available office space across the three buildings. The average asking lease rate for Class A office space downtown is $21.90 per square foot, according to a first quarter 2017 CBRE report.