The midtown apartment market got a nearly 200-unit boost from the Richmond Planning Commission Monday.
A company led by veteran developers Louis Salomonsky and David White received unanimous approval for the planned 173-unit Overbrook Lofts near the Diamond and Hardywood Park Craft Brewery.
The developers are working the Overbrook project through their firm, Historic Housing. Brian White, co-manager of the company, said the redevelopment of the massive old warehouse could take shape as an apartment or mixed-use complex. The final decision could depend on the mayor’s plan to move baseball off Boulevard.
“We’re very interested to see what goes forward with Boulevard redevelopment,” White said. “If it were to become something a little more substantial, a little grander, then it might make more sense for a commercial development at the front of the building.”
Construction on the 137,000-square-foot warehouse will come in two phases. The first, which White said could begin in the coming months, will add 108 apartments. Each unit will open to an outdoor courtyard, and the building has no interior hallways.
The second section stretching towards Hermitage Road could become 65 more apartments or commercial space.
The 104-year-old industrial building spans 300 yards east from Hermitage and was once a warehouse for the Export Leaf Tobacco Co. Salomonsky bought the property at an auction in November 2012 for $1.85 million.
With deed in hand, the development team began lining up a valuable development incentive for the project.
Only months after buying the Overbook building, Salomonsky successfully sponsored a petition to add the building and 47 acres surrounding it to the Virginia Department of Historic Resources Virginia Landmarks Register.
The so-called Hermitage Road Warehouse District bounded by Hermitage and Overbrook roads, Sherwood Avenue and Interstate 95 was added to the state register in March 20. That qualified properties within that zone to be eligible for state historic tax credits if it is redeveloped.
An application to post the district on the National Park Service’s Register of Historic Places, which would make the Overbrook Lofts eligible for federal historic tax credits, is still pending.
Virginia Department of Historic Resources spokesman Randy Jones said about 98 percent of the applications DHR forwards to the National Park Service are accepted and Hermitage Road could be listed as early as this week.
The city planning staff recommended approval of the Overbrook special use permit request on Monday, in part because the building’s configuration doesn’t lend itself to future industrial use.
Mark Olinger, Richmond director of planning, has said he’d prefer opening only the Overbrook building to tax credit incentives, rather than the district’s entire 47 acres. He worries the project might set off another building craze that could eat up industrial land similar to those taking place in Manchester and Scott’s Addition.
“We will continue to lose acreage for job producing areas of the city if we continue to go in this direction,” he said.
The Overbrook Lofts will become a third major apartment complex on the Hermitage Road corridor. Historic Housing also developed the Todd Lofts at Leigh Street and Hermitage. The Southern Stove Lofts, across Hermitage from the Todd Lofts, is the largest apartment development in the area with more than 180 units.
The planning commission also unanimously approved the latest Scott’s Addition apartment conversion project on Monday. Sieck Floral Group, a Baltimore-based wholesale florist, got the go-ahead to turn an operating warehouse at 3210 W. Leigh St. into 30 apartments. The 24,000-square-foot building sits at Mactavish and Leigh streets.
Clay Sieck, a partner with Sieck Floral, declined to comment on the project Monday.
Both the Overbrook Lofts and the Sieck Floral projects will go in front of city council seeking final approval next month.