Investors buy Imperial Plaza for $75M, plan to spend millions more on upgrades

Imperial Plaza’s entrance off Bellevue Avenue. (Jonathan Spiers photos)

A multimillion-dollar updating of one of Richmond’s longest-running senior living communities is in the works following a $75 million purchase last week.

Imperial Plaza, a gated complex totaling hundreds of units in the city’s Northside, is being renamed and reimagined as a so-called “active adult” community after its sale Thursday to an out-of-town joint venture.

The new owners are Bluestone Group, a New York-based commercial real estate investment firm, and frequent collaborator Brentwood Investment Group, based in New Jersey.

The four multistory buildings at 1717 Bellevue Ave., beside Interstate 95 across from Bryan Park, are being rebranded as “Legacy at Imperial Village,” which Brentwood partner Barry Zolty described as an updated version of the 1960s-era facility that he said will cater to today’s 55-and-up demographic.

“It’s a ’60s-vintage, beautiful property, and it has been really outdated,” Zolty said Monday. “Our vision is to really pump in capital and elevating this to more of an active adult community.”

The multistory buildings are visible along Interstate 95.

That will entail making fuller use of the property’s open spaces and common areas with amenities such as pickleball courts, a putting green and a central pool, Zolty said, adding to existing amenities that include a pharmacy, convenience store and auditorium. He said a restaurant and dining hall also are planned to replace the community’s current meal plan model.

The new owners also plan to put several million dollars into upgrading rooms and renovating interiors, as well as additional landscaping and outdoor improvements.

Zolty said they will be moving quickly on the upgrades, which he said they’ll be communicating to residents in more detail later this week.

“It’s a very exciting project for us, and we think the property is poised for that kind of differentiation, pretty much moving from an independent-living to more of that active-adult, 55-plus lifestyle,” he said.

In addition to apartments and other independent living accommodations, Imperial Plaza also includes assisted living and memory care components. The complex was built in 1967 and has not been substantially renovated in decades, said Eli Tabak, CEO of Bluestone Group.

The complex was built in 1967. (Photo courtesy of Bluestone Group)

“It’s very historic to Richmond, it’s been there since the ’60s. It was owned by a few larger, more healthcare-type owners,” Tabak said. “The property is tired, and we’re coming in with a very large and expensive upgrade and renovation plan to bring it back to its original glory.

“It hasn’t really had any extensive renovation project in probably about 25 years, so we see that as an opportunity to be able to bring the property to another level, bring occupancy up and turn it into a long-term hold type asset.”

‘Pretty big change’

Ross Sanders with Newmark brokered the deal for seller Dominion Partners, an Alabama-based firm that had owned Imperial Plaza since 2001, according to city property records. A call to the firm was not returned Monday.

Tabak said the transaction closed Feb. 25 and was partially financed by Arbor Commercial Mortgage. The deal had not been recorded with the city by noon Monday and was not reflected in online records by close-of-business.

The latest city assessment valued the property, which consists of three parcels totaling about 26 acres, at about $64.5 million.

Tabak said the complex totals 950 units and occupancy was in the upper 80 percentage when the purchase closed. The average rental rate for units is currently $1,100 a month, Zolty said, adding that rates would increase over time with renovations.

“This is going to be a pretty big change to this community, and for the residents, an opportunity,” Zolty said. “This is still (going to be) an affordable community. We’re not taking this to be a luxury option.”

Zolty said the new name, “Legacy at Imperial Village,” is meant to reflect Imperial Plaza’s legacy in Richmond and the village-style community they envision.

Imperial Plaza is the firms’ biggest deal to date in Richmond, where Tabak said he is a minority investor in other properties owned by Brentwood. He said the two firms also have several properties in Norfolk.

Brentwood’s other Richmond-area holdings include the 219-unit Canterbury Square Apartments in Henrico and the 218-unit Ashland Towne Square apartments in Hanover. It purchased those in joint ventures with Virginia Beach-based United Property Associates in 2019 and 2018, respectively.

It also owns Carriage Hill Apartments, a 297-unit complex at 7098 Fernwood St. in Henrico that it bought in 2019 for $32.2 million from Alexandria-based Bonaventure Realty Group.

The American Heritage Apartments building at the corner of East Main and South 10th streets downtown. (Jonathan Spiers photo)

Downtown apartments also bought

Meanwhile, Bluestone and Brentwood have further upped their investment in the Richmond market with their purchase of a downtown apartment building.

Two days before the Imperial Plaza closing, the firms purchased the American Heritage Apartments building at 1001 E. Main St. The firm paid $8.2 million in an off-market deal for the 12-story, 57-unit building, which Tabak said Brentwood will manage.

The seller was Time Equities, a New York-based firm that bought the building in 2015 from locally based Genesis Properties. Time Equities had paid $6.62 million for the building, which the city most recently assessed at just over $8 million.

Tabak said they’re planning interior upgrades to the building and looking to fill two available retail spaces. The building’s street-level retail includes a corner 7-Eleven store.

He said American Heritage was 95 percent occupied at closing. Rental rates range from about $1,000 for a one-bedroom unit to $2,300 for a three-bedroom penthouse.

The building is next door to 1005 E. Main St., a former bank building-turned-nightclub space that sold in a foreclosure auction Friday for $570,000.

It’s also near the Mutual Building at 909 E. Main St. that Shamin Hotels sold in December for $12.8 million to Landmark Property Services and The Wilton Cos., which are planning to convert the 152,000-square-foot office building into 170 apartments with ground-floor retail space.

Tabak said such activity is what’s drawn his and Brentwood’s investment interest in the region.

“We find the Richmond market to be very much a growing and changing market for the better, and we see a lot of opportunity in that area,” he said. “We like to gravitate towards markets that are on their way up, rather than markets that have either plateaued or are heading elsewhere. We find it to be an exciting market.”

Note: This story has been updated to clarify that Bluestone and Brentwood bought the American Heritage Apartments building together. An earlier version incorrectly referred to one of the firms as a sole owner.

BizSense reporter Mike Platania contributed to this report.

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Bruce Milam
Bruce Milam
4 months ago

There’s good news about Richmonds future all over this edition of BizSense. I await more comments from the “nattering nabobs of negativity” (thank you Spiro Agnew for your only contribution to American culture) about the city’s demise.

samuel nelson
samuel nelson
4 months ago
Reply to  Bruce Milam

Some of us like good news… 😉

Peter James
Peter James
4 months ago
Reply to  Bruce Milam

Well said, Bruce! I wholeheartedly agree with you. Is it just my imagination or are the naysayers also the self-same NIMBYs who come out in opposition to any and every project that pushes the city forward? Seems like a lot of the same folks, on the one hand, say, “We don’t want this or that.” Or “Richmond doesn’t need this or that…” Yada yada. Then they turn around and pontificate on how the city is supposedly “dying” – how people are supposedly “leaving the city in droves” when quite the opposite is true – Richmond has been enjoying double-digit population… Read more »

charles Frankenhoff
charles Frankenhoff
4 months ago
Reply to  Bruce Milam

huh, I always thought that was a Nixon quote. TIL

Stew Powell
Stew Powell
4 months ago
Reply to  Bruce Milam

Bruce, Imperial Plaza is in serious need of an update. The investment group is getting rid of the “memory care” and “assisted living” plus the fact that a lot of the seniors in “independent living” may not be able to afford to live there any longer. Is the displacement of that many seniors really “good news about Richmond’s future” ?

Sharon Berg
Sharon Berg
4 months ago

Imperial Plaza is long overdue for an overhaul, and that includes management – particularly in Assisted Living. During the Covid shutdown my mothers apartment and furnishings became infested with roaches, and it has caused numerous issues during her move to a new facility (including loss of furniture due to severe infestation) Trying to get any real response from management took months of work with myself and the state ombudsman’s office.

Jim Y Loving
Jim Y Loving
4 months ago
Reply to  Sharon Berg

Sharon – perhaps you know by now the intention of new management at IP. They have announced the clsing of the Assisted Living and Memory Care wings, and those residents, including your mom, have 60 days to find a new place to live.

Knut LaVine
Knut LaVine
4 months ago

Besides the insect infestation, the hot water system breaks down on a continual basis. My mother is paying market rates for an apartment in the independent living section and loses hot water all the time and heat as well.

This change has not been communicated very well to the residents.

Cathy Setteducato
Cathy Setteducato
4 months ago

I just moved my dad to the memory wing Feb 3. Now i have to find him a home in 60 days? This is awful! I know how its affecting my family, how about all the others that live in the AL wing? Noone is helping us to find other accommodations, as they intimated, noone will answer my calls. Now its urgent, poor planning on the part of the new owners!