Where others see alleys, Danny Meyer, Patrick Sullivan and John White see opportunity.
The trio has teamed up to construct six new townhomes just outside of the Fan and Carytown on a one-eighth-acre plot bordered by alleys along South Robinson Street.
The idea came to Sullivan, a broker with One South Realty Group, and White of architecture firm 510_Architects. They thought Richmond could take advantage of its alleys, which crisscross through neighborhoods like the Fan, and utilize that space for some modern architecture.
The idea of tucking homes in between alleys, or into their own little coves, as Sullivan describes it, is frequently seen in other parts of the world, particularly in Europe or Asia, and even in cities like Seattle and Denver.
“All the cities that Richmond wants to be,” Sullivan said. “But we just turn our backs on (alleys).”
Sullivan and White eventually approached Meyer of Dallan Development, who was immediately on board. The undertaking will be the company’s first development, having restricted most of its activities to investments up until this point.
The project, dubbed A2, will consist of six townhomes located at 202 Rear S. Robinson St. behind the Cask Cafe and Market on a parcel bounded by four alleys. It won’t have any street frontage.
“The population is becoming younger and more progressive,” Meyer said. “They want to get away from the old style of buildings.”
That’s where White’s firm comes in. It specializes in modern designs, and Sullivan said he frequently has clients looking for homes that are distinct from the traditional architecture usually found in and around the Fan.
“We have people coming in and asking, ‘Where is the modern architecture?’” Sullivan said.
The townhomes are set to be three-story buildings with a garage and an additional bedroom, office or media room on the first floor; two bedrooms on the second floor; and an open living space and kitchen on the third floor. Each home will also have its own dumbwaiter connecting the floors to easily move items between the garage and the rest of the house.
The six homes will be priced under $400,000. Construction should start this spring and the group is aiming to deliver the houses in late 2016.
The area around the homes is set to be revamped, with the recent buyers of the former GRTC bus depot planning a large mixed-use project nearby that will likely include commercial space and apartments.
Dallan’s construction arm, Dallan Construction, is the general contractor for the A2 project. Meyer did not share how much the development will cost. He is financing with Monarch Bank.
Dallan Development purchased the parcel behind the Cask last March for $105,000. Sullivan said that particular parcel is unique, as most similar properties are split up between multiple owners.
Neighbors, Meyer said, have been supportive of the plan so far, as has the city – the group secured approval from both the Planning Commission and City Council.
Part of the group’s agreement with the city will be to improve the surrounding alleys, and to repave at least one piece, to make it safer to navigate.
“My goal with anything I develop is that it needs to be something that I will be proud of and something that takes into account the people around me,” Meyer said. “It’s our first development and we want to do it right.”