Thalhimer snags downtown apartment towers for $23.5M, eyes surface lot redevelopment

As part of The Towers on Franklin acquisition, TRP picked up three surface lots on West Grace Street totaling about 0.9 acres. (TRP)

In one of its priciest Richmond property grabs to date, a local development firm is betting big on Monroe Ward.

Thalhimer Realty Partners, the investment and development arm of Cushman & Wakefield | Thalhimer, last week purchased The Towers on Franklin apartment buildings at 104 and 311 W. Franklin St. for $23.5 million, according to city property records.

In addition to the 332 apartments across both buildings, the sale also includes surface parking lots at 109 and 108 W. Grace St., along with a half-acre lot at 321 W. Grace St., which principal Matt Raggi said the firm is evaluating for development.

“This was a unique opportunity for us to purchase a sizable project in a location we feel comfortable with,” Raggi said. “The buildings will complement our existing portfolio in the immediate area well.”

The Towers on Franklin buildings house 332 apartment units.

The properties most recently were assessed at a combined $19.7 million. The deal was recorded Jan. 31.

The seller was an entity tied to Chicago-based Blue Vista Capital Management – a real estate firm that provides equity for a variety of developments, including student housing, across the U.S.

Blue Vista first purchased the properties in 2013 for $23.8 million, according to city records, changing the name of the apartment buildings from Lexington Towers to The Towers on Franklin.

The 12-story apartment tower at 311 W. Franklin St. houses 128 mostly studio and one-bedroom units. The 15-story building at 104 W. Franklin St. houses 204 studio, one- and two-bedroom units.

Both towers are 80 percent occupied, Raggi said, with a mix of tenants that either work in the area or attend school at VCU or VCU Health.

The average rent (including utilities) for a unit in The Towers is around $900 a month, Raggi said.

Recent renovations

Blue Vista recently invested more than $8 million to overhaul the tower at 104 W. Franklin St. with upgrades to the residential areas, elevators, gathering spaces, air and heating systems, and pool. Raggi said more renovations are to come.

“The properties are in need of attention and capital,” he said. “New management is already in place and we hope to start on the unit renovations soon.”

The firm will begin significant interior renovations to gathering areas and units in the 311 W. Franklin St. property next month, Raggi said. He added that TRP also is evaluating whether to renovate that building’s exterior.

Photo by J. Elias O’Neal

An estimate for the renovation work was not released. C&F Bank is providing financing for the project. Thalhimer’s Residential Property Services will manage the property.

The sale gives TRP control of about 1.3 acres in an area bounded by North Adams and Monroe streets, and West Broad and Franklin streets. It also opens up the possibility of projects in an area of downtown city leaders see as the next frontier of development.

The deal marks TRP’s first large investment in Monroe Ward, adding to the group’s growing collection of notable assets around the city.

TRP last fall dropped $15 million for the Southern States’ headquarters building at 6606 W. Broad St. in Henrico County.

It also bought the Pet Dairy facility at 1501-1507 Robin Hood Road in June for $5.5 million. One month later, TRP purchased a small office building at 3407 W. Broad St. for $1.2 million.

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