Thinking long term, development group snags 9 acres near Manchester

The 9-acre site (top left) on the Southside will be eventually redeveloped into multifamily housing. (BizSense graphic)

With a long-term play in mind, two seasoned South Richmond developers and a well-known local architect have a plan for potentially hundreds of apartments on land they snatched up in recent weeks.

Richard Smith of RJ Smith Cos., Tom Papa of Fountainhead Properties and architect Walter Parks last month purchased the 9-acre industrial property at 2350 and 2400 Maury St. for $2.5 million.

Tom Papa

Richard Smith (BizSense file photo)

The industrial site most recently was assessed at a combined $1.8 million, per city property records.

The property currently houses a 19,000-square-foot warehouse that is now home to construction firm MasTec North America, which has a new five-year lease after replacing previous tenant Bigge Crane & Rigging.

But Smith said their long-term plans are to use the site for a multifamily development.

“In the next five to 10 years, as the market comes to us, we’ll work on multifamily housing over time as a redevelopment project,” Smith said.

“In the development world, if you don’t stay three to five years ahead, you’re behind. With a property like that we can push it out even further and really reduce some risk.”

Papa is among Manchester’s biggest developers, with current projects underway, including South Falls along the riverfront. RJ Smith Cos. also has been active in the Manchester area with River Row apartments on Bainbridge and multiphase Urban Charm project on Hull Street.

Construction firm MasTec recently took up operations at the site after signing a 5-year lease there. (Mike Platania)

Smith said the size of the Maury Street parcel is what caught their attention.

“You could probably put 200 to 300 apartments there, easily, and still have parking and amenities,” Smith said. “It’s an extraordinary piece of property.”

The land is located across from Lynx Ventures’ Clopton Siteworks, a redevelopment project of over two dozen tobacco warehouses that now house companies such as Hatch RVA and TemperPack.

Smith said the pandemic hasn’t lessened his bullishness on the Richmond market.

“Even with all the things that are happening with COVID-19, Richmond’s still a growing, dynamic city,” Smith said. “A lot of people want to live and work inside the city, so we’re excited about that part of the town, knowing it’s still got opportunity for growth. We’re looking forward to continuing to reinvest in Manchester.”

Smith’s not just looking 10-plus years ahead. He said next year, his firm plans to begin work on about 120 apartments between two sites at 1401 and 1501-1511 Hull St.

“We’re currently in the planning stages for the 1500 and 1400 block of Hull,” Smith said. “The 1400 (block project) is smaller, about 44 units, then up the street (on the 1500 block) we’ll have 80 units. We’ve still got our foot on the gas.”

A slew of other properties on Hull Street are up for grabs after the latest auction of Hild properties in the Manchester area turned out to be fruitless.

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