With construction going full bore, the new development taking shape on the former Westhampton Theater site has had little trouble lining up commercial tenants.
The Westhampton on Grove, a two-building mixed-use project underway at 5702 and 5706 Grove Ave., has leases in hand to fill all but 3,000 of its 31,000 square feet of commercial space.
That’s due in part to recently signed deals with Virginia Commonwealth Bank, which is taking about 3,000 square feet on the second floor of the larger structure where the movie theater once stood, and Harbert Venture Partners, a Shockoe Slip-based venture capital firm that’s taking the full 5,900-square-foot second floor of the new building going up at the corner of Granite and Grove avenues.
Virginia Commonwealth Bank will use its space as the new headquarters for its wealth management arm, VCB Financial Group, which historically has been based in Kilmarnock.
On that same floor, Montante Plastic Surgery & Aesthetics is taking 3,600 square feet as it relocates from 7605 Forest Ave.
They’ll be above Taste Unlimited, a Hampton Roads-based restaurant that was one of the earliest tenants to sign on and has since expanded from its initial plan to add space for its Borjo Coffee and Juice Bar spinoff.
That will bring Taste’s total stake in the project to about 6,000 square feet.
Harbert’s move to Grove brings it out of 1210 E. Cary St. in the Slip, where it’s been for 15 years. It joins Mango Salon, another of the earlier signees at the Westhampton site, in the building going up on what had been a parking lot adjacent to the existing Long & Foster building.
Long & Foster also is taking advantage of the new development by leasing 5,200 square feet in the project, adding to its 6,000-square-foot office.
Jason Guillot, who is developing the project with partner Stefan Cametas, said that leaves one available commercial space above Taste’s storefront.
The interest has validated their plan, which began nearly four years ago with their purchase of the theater and caused consternation from some neighboring residents when the project was proposed.
“I think our thesis from the beginning was that it’s a great location and the details will kind of sort themselves out,” Guillot said.
Cametas said interest from commercial tenants picked up once construction began in earnest, helping potential tenants visualize what they’d be getting.
“Once we got to that point it kind of fell into place,” he said.
Guillot, also a principal with Thalhimer Realty Partners, said leasing at Westhampton has been fueled by the recent trend of businesses looking for more walkable areas in the city.
“There’s a lot of interest from people, whether it’s Scott’s Addition or Westhampton, to move their offices to active neighborhoods,” he said. “This type of culture and environment is 180 degrees from what you have in a suburban office park, which was the model in Richmond for the last three decades.
“A lot has changed in how we work,” he said. “That’s affected a lot about what’s in vogue for where you work.”
With the bulk of commercial tenants lined up, Guillot and Cametas have settled on their strategy for the residential section on the third floor.
Three penthouse condos are taking shape on the upper levels that will range from 3,000 to 4,300 square feet.
They initially pondered building 12 apartments before settling on larger, high-end condos.
Guillot said they’re working out prices for the units and that they’ll be comparable to the Chadwick units at upwards of $480 per square foot.
General contractor Taylor & Parrish is working to finish construction on the project. Guillot said commercial shells will be turned over to tenants beginning next month, with most planning to open by fall.
The condos are expected to be ready for residents by early 2019.
TowneBank has been the lender on the development. Glave & Holmes is the architect. Guillot, through his affiliation with Cushman & Wakefield | Thalhimer, has been handling the leasing. HG Design Studio is the civil engineer and landscape architect.
With the neighborhood uproar now in the rearview, Guillot said he’s learned about the compromise that’s sometimes necessary to pull off a project of this size.
“Had we been wise enough to understand how much time it would take, we probably would have been scared off, to be honest,” he said.
“But looking back on it, we had a good process. We made sacrifices on the design to appease the city and neighbors. By everyone conceding a little bit we were able to get a project that I think is going to be a benefit to the area in the long run.”