CarMax pulling into Sauer Center space

CarMax has signed a lease to take over 78,000 square feet of the original Putney Building at 2220 W. Broad St. (J. Elias O’Neal)

A local Fortune 500 company is shifting its Richmond growth plans into a new gear as it prepares to roll into one of the city’s newest mixed-use developments.

Used car giant CarMax has signed a lease to take over 78,000 square feet of the original Putney Building at 2220 W. Broad St. in the Whole Foods-anchored Sauer Center development, according to an internal email obtained by BizSense.

The company’s workers were notified about the lease via email Wednesday, explaining that the new space lease will help CarMax bring its product and marketing department teams to one location.

It wasn’t clear from the emails whether the expansion would affect workers at its West Creek Business Park headquarters in Goochland County or other office space in the city Richmond. The email did not indicate whether the expansion would produce any new jobs.

CarMax spokeswoman Jennifer Bartusiak confirmed Wednesday that the company has signed a lease in Sauer Center, but did not provide details about potential job creation. Bartusiak said CarMax is looking to hire about 130 people across the metro Richmond area, but did not specify if those workers would be based at the Sauer Center location.

CarMax

CarMax’s downtown office. (BizSense file photo)

Bradford Sauer, a managing partner overseeing the Sauer development, could not be reached for comment.

The Sauer Center lease would be the retailer’s largest in Richmond since moving some of its operations to the city about three years ago.

One of the nation’s largest retailers for used cars and trucks, CarMax currently employs about 200 people in the city, and well over 500 at its 250,000-square-foot offices in Goochland.

The company established its Digital & Technology Innovation Center in 32,000 square feet of the Lady Byrd Hat Factory building downtown in 2016. The firm also signed a lease last spring for 14,000 square feet in the Canal Crossing building at 101 S. 15th St. in Shockoe Slip, which will serve as additional office space for its product and marketing departments.

It’s been rumored for months that CarMax was looking to steer more of its workforce into the city, with its sights set on the Sauer Center development.

Inside CarMax’s downtown office. (BizSense file photo)

Sauer Properties, the development subsidiary of Richmond-based spice manufacturer C.F. Sauer Co., submitted plans to the city’s planning department in late May to add a four-story, 52,400-square-foot office building and 790-space parking garage next to the existing Putney Building.

The added office space and parking deck are a change in plans from what was submitted to the city about three years ago for that section of the development, which called for a 10-story apartment building and a six-level parking garage. Changes to the plan are being expedited for review by the city’s planning division as a “priority economic development project.”

Sauer is renovating both the interior and exterior of The Putney building, which sits next to the DMV headquarters along West Broad Street.

According to the email, as part of the renovations to the building – which opened in 1905 as the Putney Shoe Co. – Sauer is restoring much of the building’s original architecture, which includes restoring several windows along the side of the building, in the vaulted roof line and along the main entrance.

The surface parking lot behind the Putney Building at 2220 W. Broad St. is slated for a five-level parking deck attached to a four-story office building. (J. Elias O’Neal)

“It is still very early on in the process,” the email stated. “But just as we have done for our other locations, our goal for the design of this new space will be to provide an exceptional workplace environment.”

CarMax was still “working on a timeline” for moving into the space, the email stated, but the firm expected the building to be ready for occupancy in 18 months to two years.

The company’s recent lease in Richmond adds to its continued growth across the country, where it employs around 25,000 people through its network of stores and customer service centers.

On Tuesday, the company announced plans to establish a new facility in Tempe, Arizona — a customer service call center that will create about 430 new jobs.

Netting CarMax as an office anchor in Sauer Center could trigger additional development on property the Sauers own within the vicinity.

Overall, Sauer Properties has amassed a 24-acre collection of surface lots, and commercial and industrial buildings within the vicinity of West Broad, West Leigh and West Clay streets, and Hermitage Road and Meadow Avenue — making it one of the most prominent commercial property holders near the Fan.

Earlier this year, C.F. Sauer Co. announced it would be sold outright to Falfurrias Capital Partners, a Charlotte, North Carolina-based private equity firm. The transaction, terms of which were not disclosed, closed last month.

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