Chopt taking over former Wendy’s space in James Center

Chopt Creative Salad Co. opened its first metro Richmond location in the Shops at Willow Lawn in October 2017. (Photos by J. Elias O’Neal)

An empty storefront at a prominent downtown office complex is swapping square burger patties for big bowls of salad.

Chopt Creative Salad Co. is opening its second metro Richmond outpost in the former Wendy’s location on the ground floor of the One James Center building at 901 E. Cary St.

The lease was finalized Tuesday, said Bruce Boykin, James Center’s senior asset manager who oversees James Center for owners Riverstone Properties.

Chopt will take over about 4,000 square feet that Wendy’s vacated about two years ago.

james center rotunda

One James Center. (BizSense file photo)

The restaurant will have visibility and pedestrian access via South Ninth Street and at the building’s main entrance along East Cary Street. It also will have patio space near the East Byrd and South Ninth streets intersection.

The restaurant is planning a winter opening, Boykin said.

Chopt could not immediately be reached for comment Tuesday afternoon.

Founded in New York City in 2001, Chopt is a fast-casual restaurant that serves a variety of made-to-order salad bowls and wraps.

Each salad is prepared in an assembly line divided into two groups: assemblers that take your order and collect your ingredients, and choppers that chop the salad (hence the name).

Chopt opened its first local restaurant in the Shops at Willow Lawn at 1601 Willow Lawn Drive about two years ago, while steadily growing its presence throughout the mid-Atlantic — including Virginia.

Chopt will fill 4,000 square feet of the ground floor level of the One James Center building downtown.

Jim Ashby, a broker with Cushman & Wakefield | Thalhimer who represented Chopt during the One James Center lease, said he’s working with the company to establish additional outposts in Short Pump and Midlothian.

Boykin said adding Chopt is part of Riverstone’s plan to upgrade James Center’s three towers and make parts of the complex a popular lunch destination for businesses nestled around the center in the city’s financial district.

“Chopt understood what Riverstone is trying to bring to the financial district,” Boykin said. “The renovation is doing what we intended for it to do, and that’s drive new business to the complex and the area.”

James Center growth

Riverstone purchased the three-building, nearly 1 million-square-foot complex at 901, 1021 and 1051 E. Cary St. in 2017 for $108 million.

The firm began renovations to One James Center last spring to help revitalize the 30-year-old complex, netting several new tenants, including South State Bank, which recently opened its new 10,000-square-foot office space on the second level of One James Center.

The nearly 1 million square foot James Center complex at 901, 1021 and 1051 E. Cary St. is slated for a significant overhaul.

Another new addition is Puritan Cleaners, which Boykin said has agreed to install a closet where James Center tenants can drop off and pick up their dry cleaning and laundry.

“It will have limited access and a camera to ensure people’s personal property is safe,” Boykin said. “We think it’s going to be a great amenity for building tenants.”

Riverstone also has had luck in recent months signing new office tenants to sizable leases, including architecture firm Baskervill, law firm Whiteford Taylor & Preston, and the U.S. Census Bureau.

The James Center complex is 78 percent occupied, Boykin said.

Meanwhile, Boykin said renovation work to the atrium, which connects Two James Center, Three James Center and the Omni Hotel, is slated to begin in the next 30 days.

As Riverstone Properties redevelops the James Center complex, new retail, restaurant and office users are lining up to join the complex, including Experimac.

Several new businesses have set up shop in the atrium.

Local health food brand The Pit and The Peel opened in November 2018. Experimac, which specializes in the sale and repair of several certified pre-owned Apple products, including computers, iPads and watches, opened in March.

Other atrium restaurants include Arby’s, Sesame Sushi and Nathan’s. Boykin said Starbucks also is planning to renovate its space in the building.

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Brian Ezzelle

Don’t know if related but I noticed this weekend that the Wendy’s on West Broad Street near Staples Mills appears to be permanently closed.