As apartment developers scour Scott’s Addition in search of their next project, one of the neighborhood’s architectural gems will soon be open to a new tenant.
HandCraft Cleaners, which operates dry cleaning and industrial cleaning facilities, plans to vacate its 80,000-square-foot Roseneath Road plant next year, co-owner Jay Nichols said. It will relocate and move its operations to a two-building Cofer Road facility about eight miles south of Scott’s Addition.
While the move will potentially open the building to redevelopment – and several interested parties have plenty of ideas for the space – Nichols said he doesn’t want to add HandCraft’s distinct property to the laundry list of new apartment buildings in the area.
“We will continue to own it, and we’d like to see some type of amenities for the neighborhood,” he said. “Everybody wants to turn it into lofts. But we’re not going to put apartments in here.”
Nichols said several businesses have expressed interest in the building over the last eight years. He’s fielded calls from several apartment builders. One suitor thought it would make good storage space. Another kicked the tires looking for an exotic car garage. A third pitched the idea of a new bowling alley.
Colorado-based Breckenridge Brewing Co. looked at the building several years ago with plans for a second-story bar overlooking a 70,000-square-foot brewery floor, Nichols said.
Binswanger Glass Co. built the plant in 1946 and used it as its headquarters before abandoning the building around 1980. In 1983, HandCraft bought the 1501 Roseneath Road property for $675,000.
The company also picked up a 1.4-acre parking lot across MacTavish Avenue from the Binswanger building in 2011 for $300,000, adding a luxury most Scott’s Addition storefronts go without to the HandCraft building’s redevelopment prospects.
Now that Scott’s Addition’s has become a hot spot for apartments, breweries and other new businesses, Nichols said the future of the HandCraft property is the “million-dollar question.” The property is currently assessed at $2.29 million.
Cushman & Wakefield | Thalhimer broker Jeff Cooke got a feel for the property after showing it to a pair of Richmond apartment developers. He said it would be a difficult residential rehab project, even if the Nichols family decided to sell.
While there is plenty of light coming in from the building’s perimeter – The Binswanger Glass Co. used as much glass as they could, Nichols said – getting light to the center of the factory for interior apartments would be a challenge.
Scott’s Addition isn’t ideal yet for a retailer to move in either, Cooke said. There just aren’t enough residents nearby to lure the big box-type store that could fill a building as big as HandCraft’s.
He pointed to Manchester and Shockoe Bottom, neighborhoods that have far more new and incoming residents than Scott’s Addition but have yet to bring in a major grocery chain.
“Every emerging neighborhood wants a grocery store, but it takes 20,000 people in a pretty tight radius just to support a 7-Eleven,” he said. “So to support a grocery store, even a small one, you need a lot of bodies.”
An entertainment facility seems most feasible, Cooke said.
“If you put a brewery or restaurant in there with some bowling lanes and maybe a small theater, that would probably sing,” he said.
HandCraft has not contracted any real estate agents to exclusively market the property for the company, but the brewery idea has gained traction with at least one local broker.
Matthew Mullett, a broker with Shockoe Co., doesn’t represent HandCraft but is marketing the building as “Beverage Works,” a complex with a two-story retail and restaurant combination in HandCraft’s current office space with 70,000 square feet of brewery and cidery equipment.
He’s pitched the idea to several beverage makers, including Nelson County-based Devil’s Backbone, Buskey Barrel Cider Co. in Hampton Roads and forthcoming Richmond beer maker Siegecraft Brewing Co.
Mullett also said he envisions a “co-op brewing space” – a location where a local brewery could contract brewing work if it needed more volume than its location could produce.
“One of the challenges these small craft breweries face coming up if they have a good liquid is that they begin blowing their projections out of the water and end up at the end of year three being where they thought they would be at year five,” Mullett said. “There seems to be a need for a stop-gap measure.”
Still, Mullett will need one big-time brewer to get the taps flowing.
“We really do need an anchor tenant, somebody to take up 30 percent of the space and be able to invest in the space,” he said. “Once we get that anchor tenant, it makes everything a little more viable.”
The HandCraft property will become available next summer. The company will move out in the spring and need a couple months to disassemble its cleaning equipment, clear the property and ready it for redevelopment.
Selling the property isn’t entirely off the table, Nichols said, but it would take a very high figure.
“We know that this facility is worth a lot more to lease it than it is for laundry,” Nichols said.