Architects sued for back rent

Plant One building

The Plant One building. (Photo by Burl Rolett)

One of Richmond’s most active developers is suing a local architecture firm for back rent in its former Manchester offices.

Plant One LLC, which is associated with the principals of Fountainhead Properties, claims in the lawsuit that SMBW Architects vacated its office at 401 Stockton St. before the seven-year lease was up and owes $165,400 in rent.

Tom Papa, one of the principals at Fountainhead, said that his company had been trying to work with SMBW to resolve the rent issue and that there was no ill will but that it had to go to the courts.

“We have an obligation to our lenders to pursue these things,” Papa said. “If there is a debt that isn’t paid, this is what the banks expect us to do.”

Fountainhead’s projects include, among others, the Reynolds North development on which it’s a 50/50 partner with WVS.

SMBW moved into the office in 2005, according to a lease agreement attached to the lawsuit. Will Scribner, a principal for SMBW, said the firm vacated the building known as Plant One on Jan. 15 and occupied about 3,000 square feet in the Turning Basin building at 111 Virginia St.

Scribner said that SMBW was in communication with the landlords at Plant One and that the two sides agreed to the early departure before the firm vacated the building.

“Our actions relative to the space were taken with full knowledge of, and in agreement with, the managing partners of Plant One LLC. We view this more as a dispute between the partners of Plant One LLC, and not a dispute with SMBW,” he said.

The original lease ran through Aug. 1, he said.

The firm said it would file a response to the lawsuit once it has been served the paperwork, Scribner said. SMBW has 18 employees. Its local work includes the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.

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