The owner of one of Richmond’s most visible buildings from Interstate 95 has landed its largest tenant to date.
Alexandria-based HVAC company Michael and Son, which owns the 273,000-square-foot former Wyeth plant at 1415 Cummings Drive, recently leased 40,000 square feet to Minacs, an outsourcing firm that plans to open a call center in the space by November.
The arrival of Minacs is the latest of many big changes to the sprawling property since Michael and Son purchased it in 2012 as a Richmond home base. And after three years, CBRE | Richmond broker Franklin Bell, who handles leasing at the building, said interest is suddenly brisk. JLL represented Minacs in the deal.
“All of a sudden we’ve just gotten all kinds of interest,” he said. “There seem to be a lot more people in the market… In the last eight months to a year we’ve gotten more tours than we had in the two years preceding that combined.”
Michael and Son takes up about 35,000 square feet of space in the building, which also has two smaller tenants: ToolBank, which provides tools to organizations like Habitat for Humanity, and Rexel USA, an electrical supply company. About 87,000 square feet is currently listed on the market.
“There’s a lot of good movement right now in the building,” Basim Mansour, president of Michael and Son, said. “I’m just very excited about the future of the building. And that excitement makes me want to invest more in the city of Richmond.”
The property previously served as headquarters for the A.H. Robins Company, a pharmaceutical manufacturer, which moved there in 1953.
It was built, according to Bell, “like a tank.” While it sits directly next to I-95, just east of The Diamond, the interstate can’t be heard inside the building.
It was that visibility from I-95 that spurred Mansour to purchase it in 2012 and invest in upgrades. Mansour has invested more than $1 million in updating the building – today called the Michael and Son Center – adding windows to the exterior to make it more attractive from I-95 and providing common spaces like a fitness room, cafeteria and auditorium for current and future tenants to use.
“My goal over the next five years is to become a role model for what employers should look like,” Mansour said.
Work is already completed on Minacs’ office space, which required some basic upgrades before the company could move in. Michael and Son did the general contracting work. It’ll be a new office for Minacs and will have room for hundreds of employees that work for the company over multiple shifts.
In addition to the work he is doing now on the Wyeth plant, Mansour said he has plans to construct a new technical center somewhere in Richmond, where future Michael and Son employees will go through 10-week apprenticeship programs. That plan includes redeveloping the Wyeth site’s 21,000-square-foot office tower into dormitories for those employees.
Mansour said he is still hunting for the location of the technical center.
“The art of fixing things is being lost,” he said. “The truth is, my plumbers and HVAC technicians are making anywhere from $60,000 to $100,000 doing service work… I love what the training has done for me, and I believe in being a craftsman.”
Michael and Son was established in 1976 and has offices in Charlottesville and Norfolk, as well as in Raleigh and Charlotte, North Carolina, and Baltimore, Maryland. The Richmond location has over 100 employees over several shifts.
“While it sits directly next to I-95, just east of The Diamond, the interstate can’t be heard inside the building.”
One of the many benefits of building with concrete instead of kindling! That fantastic acoustic performance in apartment buildings is a mere side benefit to the lower heating/cooling costs, lower maintenance, lower insurance and better resale values in concrete buildings.