Ndp on the hunt for new Richmond HQ

The ndp building at . (Jonathan Spiers)

The ndp building at 1 E. Cary St. was home to the advertising firm for 10 years. (Jonathan Spiers)

As it looks to grow its Richmond headquarters, a stalwart of the local advertising scene is putting out feelers for the downtown building it’s called home for a decade.

Ndp – formerly ND&P, the shorthand for ad agency Neathawk, Dubuque and Packett – is testing the real estate market for its building at 1 E. Cary St., where it has based its headquarters for the past 10 years.

While not actively listed for sale, the 17,400-square-foot building is being marketed to prospective buyers and renters in a confidential offering by Henrico-based Henry Liscio Company, which has distributed fliers with an asking price of $1.6 million.

Thomas Becher, a senior vice president with ndp, said the agency has outgrown the 9,500 square feet it currently occupies in the building and is looking for a larger space – about 15,000 square feet.

Becher said the company is considering whether to renovate and expand its current space in the building or look for other space in Richmond, where it intends to keep its headquarters. The company also has offices in Roanoke and Chattanooga, Tennessee.

“We are growing in Richmond and we’re planning to stay in Richmond,” Becher said. “Our current office space, while it’s served us well, is too cramped to match our growth, so we’ve been evaluating and researching real estate options in Richmond.”

Last year, ndp had an artist "tattoo" the building with a mural as part of its marketing campaign for a Japanese tattoo art exhibit at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. (Jonathan Spiers)

Last year, ndp had an artist “tattoo” the building with a mural as part of its marketing campaign for a Japanese tattoo art exhibit at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. (Jonathan Spiers)

Becher said those efforts have included gauging interest for their building, both from prospective buyers and potential lessees.

Real estate broker Henry Liscio said he is marketing the property for its current office use, which he considers its highest and best use.

Liscio said developers who were targeted with the offering expressed interest in an apartment rehab using historic tax credits, as the building was constructed in 1932. Liscio said such use is doable, but he maintains that office use – by a buyer or renters – would bring the most value.

“What’s going to become of it, the market will determine,” Liscio said.

The building is owned by MSI Enterprises LLC, an entity created by ndp principals Susan Dubuque and Roger Neathawk and retired principal Chuck Miller.

MSI, which stands for Market Strategies Inc., rents the building to ndp and fellow tenants George A. Townsend IV, an attorney whose office totals 180 square feet, and Human Resources Inc., a substance abuse treatment nonprofit that takes up 2,500 square feet on the building’s second floor.

According to the flier, Townsend rents month to month, while Human Resources’ lease runs through April 30, 2022. Ndp’s term is described as negotiable but expected to end in the first quarter of 2017.

Becher said ndp is still determining what the configuration of a new office would look like.

“We don’t have something in mind,” he said. “One of the things in a modern ad agency is how much space do you need for coworking space or conference space. The days of all offices and cube farms are in many ways over. We’re evaluating what modern workspaces look like.”

Becher said ndp’s current layout of offices linked by hallways isn’t conducive to creativity and collaboration.

“These hallways of offices are not what you find in a lot of modern spaces for ad agencies,” he said. “We’re just looking for more square footage that will enable us to have a creative, modern workspace that attracts outstanding employees and positions us for future growth.”

In addition to the building’s 17,400 square feet of finished space, it includes a basement totaling 6,300 square feet with storage areas, a garage and an abandoned area. Including the basement, the flier notes the asking price of $1.6 million is based on approximately $67.31 per square foot.

A city assessment valued the property at $1.22 million. According to the flier, the assessment value has not changed since 2008.

MSI purchased the building in 1999 for $430,000, according to city records. Ndp moved there from its previous space on the top floor of what is now the Quirk Hotel.

Prior to that, the agency, founded in 1984, was housed at 611 W. Cary St., a yellow antebellum house that is now the front of Pine Court Apartments on VCU’s Monroe Park Campus.

Before ndp, the building at 1 E. Cary St. housed a number of other ad agencies, including Lawler Ballard, Earle Palmer Brown and CRT – the local part of what is now PadillaCRT.

Last year, ndp had an artist “tattoo” the building with a mural as part of its marketing campaign for a Japanese tattoo art exhibit at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. A new logo, “The Doodle,” has since been added to the building at the corner of Cary and North Foushee Street.

In an interview in April, Dubuque and Neathawk – this year’s Ad Persons of the Year, as named by the Richmond Ad Club – said they were drawn to the building for its prior use by other agencies.

“It was wired. It was turn-key,” Dubuque said.

“We spent about 30 minutes making a decision to buy this building,” added Neathawk. “We walked in and it was like, ‘Okay, it’s an ad agency.’”

Noting the building’s previous occupants, Dubuque said, laughing: “We found the remnants of every agency in the city of Richmond in our basement. This was like the spawning ground.”

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