Five years in the making, the first leg of one of Manchester’s largest real estate projects is taking shape.
The initial phase of Reynolds South, Thalhimer Realty Partners’ 17.5-acre mixed-use development along the river between the 14th Street Bridge and the Manchester Bridge, is well underway with its first historic rehab building along Seventh Street set to be ready for tenants this fall.
It’s one of three buildings that will add 218 apartments and 20,000 square feet of office space between them to the growing neighborhood. The second of the three will follow in the early winter, and the third should wrap up in the spring.
They’ll eventually be followed by two towers and a large retail section that, once completed, would bring the entire Reynolds South project to a cost of upwards of $100 million. The investment is part of Thalhimer’s plan to make Reynolds South a destination, drawing in residents from the suburbs, as well as the ample number of residents filling up other projects around Manchester.
“I think Manchester is starting to come together in terms of a big-picture neighborhood,” TRP’s Drew Wiltshire said. “Our hope is to build a full-service community within an area that is now thriving.”
The first building of the project’s initial phase has signed on its first office tenant: MGT Construction, Thalhimer’s construction arm and the general contractor for Reynolds South. It has leased 4,000 square feet.
The apartments in the initial phase will be one-bedrooms with an average of 675 square feet and two-bedrooms of about 1,050 square feet.
Mac Wilson, a broker with Cushman & Wakefield | Thalhimer, said two of the three buildings will have fitness centers, which will be available to both commercial and residential tenants. Residents will also have access to a pool and clubhouse.
By the time work on the first three buildings wraps up, Thalhimer will begin tackling phase two – a 10-story residential tower of about 200 units to the west and a large retail portion to the east.
Land has already been ground up for the new retail construction between Bainbridge and Hull Street, where Thalhimer hopes to lure the neighborhood’s first grocery store.
“We’ve had some good interest,” Wiltshire said of potential grocery tenants.
Wiltshire said a grocery store anchor tenant could take up to 70,000 square feet. He said the developers are flexible on the retail side and are willing to adjust their plans to the tenants’ needs, while ensuring the space retains plenty of surface parking.
In addition to a grocer, the developers are hoping to snag a fitness tenant, and maybe a pharmacy. Wiltshire said there has been some preliminary interest but did not share names.
The development’s third phase will be an office tower that could be 13 stories high, though plans are still in preliminary stages. Wilson said they will change depending on the tenants, but the office building could be up to 275,000 square feet. The tower, he added, will offer tenants “some of the best views in town,” plus signage on the building for a large tenant.
Thalhimer purchased the entire property, formerly part of a Reynolds Metals facility, almost two years ago for $9.25 million and began work in early 2014. Walter Parks is the architect on the project and Union Bank & Trust is Thalhimer’s lender. The project is utilizing historic tax credits.
Jeff Cooke, a Cushman & Wakefield | Thalhimer broker who is handling leasing on the project along with Wilson and Connie Jordan-Nielsen, said the developer’s plan has been in the works for at least five years, when discussions began with the previous owner.
“In that time, there has been remarkable progress (in Manchester),” Cooke said. “Five years ago, Fountainhead (Development) was pretty much the only landlord; now there are several other landlords and a lot more properties, so the area is building out.”
Fountainhead is still involved in the neighborhood and has preliminary plans to construct two 16-story towers near Reynolds South.
Cooke pointed out that Fountainhead’s towers and the other recent developments around Manchester will only help Reynolds South.
“Most people don’t want to be first somewhere, especially office tenants, so when we have others signing up and coming in, it takes the pressure off,” he said.
Wiltshire said it only proves that residents really do want to live in the Southside neighborhood.
“Ultimately the number of urban renters in Richmond continues to climb,” Wiltshire said. “The activity is making (Manchester) more viable as an overall community, which will help keep residents here once they move here.”