Spy Rock snags two development sites near The Diamond for nearly $7M

The former Sampson Coatings building near The Diamond sold for $2.7 million. (Photos by Mike Platania)

Kicking off a busy autumn, a Scott’s Addition-based developer has secured another piece for its Hardywood-anchored project, while also grabbing 3 acres nearby for the future home of a fast-growing local startup.

Spy Rock Real Estate Group purchased 1900 Ellen Road near The Diamond for $2.7 million, as well as 1601 Overbrook Road for $4.2 million.

The Ellen Road property, which was formerly a paint distribution center for Sampson Coatings, will be filled by Grenova, a health tech firm that makes laboratory devices that clean pipette tips. Grenova will move its operations from Clopton Siteworks in Southside to the Ellen Road building, and more than triple its footprint from 10,000 square feet to 33,000 square feet.

Spy Rock also closed on a $4.2 million deal on Overbrook Road that’s part of a major mixed-use redevelopment.

“This was just sitting vacant there on almost 3 acres,” Spy Rock Principal Andrew Basham said. “It wasn’t really on our radar but we looked at it and we got interested in it. We thought it was a great location, obviously, being in north Scott’s Addition and close to The Diamond.”

JLL’s Muscoe Garnett helped connect Spy Rock with Grenova, which was rapidly running out of space in the Southside.

With so many labs running COVID-19 tests and seeking ways to sterilize and reuse lab materials like pipettes, Grenova, a six-year-old company, was positioned to gain a lot of new business.

“We were on a growth and expansion plan but the pandemic expedited that, and it was mainly because the demand in the market started rapidly increasing,” Grenova’s founder and CEO Ali Safavi said. “The past six months for us at Grenova hasn’t been like what other industries have been experiencing. For us, it’s been busier than in any time in the history of the company.”

Grenova founder Ali Safavi

Architecture AF is designing the space that will include about 9,000 square feet of office space, with the remainder being warehouse space. RGI is the project’s general contractor, and Commonwealth Commercial’s Ben Bruni and Ryan Fanelli represented the seller in the land deal.

Grenova’s signed a 10-year lease for the space, which Safavi said will give them room to grow. Currently, he said they have a staff of 40 and lately have been hiring about two people per week.

“I’ve had to rewrite our budget three times this year. I expect by the end of 2020 we’ll be at 50 people on staff, and by the end of 2021, I will not be surprised if we’re at about 100,” Safavi said. Some of its growth has been fueled by a 2018 capital raise in which local venture capital firm Trolley Venture Partners invested an undisclosed amount in Grenova.

Grenova makes devices that clean lab equipment, including pipette tips. (Courtesy of Grenova Facebook)

Basham said they’re applying for building permits this week and plan to begin construction in November. He said the goal is to have Grenova moved in during the second quarter of 2021.

“One of the things we’re going to be pushing for is some acceleration in permits and inspections (at the city) because of the nature of Ali’s business, which is critical during COVID,” Basham said.

Meanwhile, about a mile southeast, Spy Rock bought 1601 Overbrook Road for $4.2 million as the next step in its plan to transform much of the block surrounding Hardywood Park Craft Brewery’s Richmond taproom.

The 3-acre site will be part of a 300,000-square-foot mixed-use project that would bring more than 200 apartments and condos to the intersection of Ownby Lane and Overbrook Road.

In February, Spy Rock purchased Hardywood’s original building at 2408 Ownby Lane for $1.3 million, which, if the project’s plan of development is approved by the city, would be razed to make way for a mix of condos and townhomes.

Hardywood is consolidating into its second building at 2410 Ownby Lane, which would get a major renovation as part of the project.

Spy Rock is planning an L-shaped building on the newly-acquired Overbook Road site, replacing a 23,000-square-foot warehouse that’s currently on the plot. The new building would include 188 apartments and 22,000 square feet of commercial space.

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Bruce Milam
Bruce Milam
1 year ago

I’m continually amazed by Spyrock’s unabated residential development growth as well as its expansion into commercial uses. No moss grows on this stone!

congratulations to Ben and and Ryan of Commonwealth Commercial for the sale. I’m honored to be their colleague.

John Lindner
John Lindner
1 year ago

Nice to see this important area of town being redeveloped, and in a way that strengthens both the neighborhood and the business community. Congrats all around.

I hope they can get the accelerated approvals they need, but given Richmond’s history, I wouldn’t hold my breath. That is, unless new leadership this fall can accelerate change at city hall.