Harper scoops up prime site at Semmes and Cowardin in Manchester

6.18R Cowardin

Harper Associates bought the property at 418 Cowardin Ave. last week and already has signage up. (Mike Platania photo)

Eyed over the years by the likes of Wawa, Chipotle and Dominion Energy, a piece of one of Manchester’s busiest intersections has at last been sold, with a local developer closing the deal.

The 1.7-acre site at 418 Cowardin Ave., at the intersection with Semmes Avenue, sold this week to an entity tied to Harper Associates for $1.9 million.

The sellers in the deal were John Zehler and Tom England, who bought the land nearly three decades ago.

“It’s been one of the more prosperous properties I’ve sold,” said Zehler. “When I (bought it) everybody told me I was completely out of my mind.”

The sale of the land, which was most recently assessed by the city at $1.4 million, recorded on June 15.

Zehler, 74, said last week that he bought the property for $355,000 in 1992. Over the years, England operated one of his Lucky’s convenience stores on the site along with a Citgo fuel station, before they cleared the site in 2018. Wawa briefly had the land under contract that same year, before Chipotle showed interest in the site.

6.18R Cowardin 2

From left, Mel Strine of Exxon, Tom England and John Zehler at the site in the 1990s. (Courtesy of John Zehler)

Zehler, a petroleum industry veteran who’s also dabbled in real estate over the years, said Dominion Energy had the land under contract last year, but that deal fell through.

Enter Harper Associates, a Richmond developer that’s already quite familiar with the intersection of Semmes and Cowardin avenues.

Harper’s working on a multi-phase townhome project, Belle Heights, around the corner at 1802 Semmes Ave. and earlier this year it bought an adjacent parcel at 406 Cowardin Ave., where it’s building a dialysis center.

 Will Allen, Harper’s asset manager, declined to comment on the Cowardin deal. But the plot is already being marketed for possible retail use. A flyer from Thalhimer is pitching it as a ground lease or build-to-suit site for up to about 14,000 square feet, with drive-thru capability. Reilly Marchant has the listing.

Meanwhile, catty-corner from Harper’s new land, a major apartment project from an Alabama developer is underway.

LIV Development is working on the 269-unit Jamestown Apartment Flats at 500 W. 14th St., and is nearing completion.

6.18R Cowardin

Harper Associates bought the property at 418 Cowardin Ave. last week and already has signage up. (Mike Platania photo)

Eyed over the years by the likes of Wawa, Chipotle and Dominion Energy, a piece of one of Manchester’s busiest intersections has at last been sold, with a local developer closing the deal.

The 1.7-acre site at 418 Cowardin Ave., at the intersection with Semmes Avenue, sold this week to an entity tied to Harper Associates for $1.9 million.

The sellers in the deal were John Zehler and Tom England, who bought the land nearly three decades ago.

“It’s been one of the more prosperous properties I’ve sold,” said Zehler. “When I (bought it) everybody told me I was completely out of my mind.”

The sale of the land, which was most recently assessed by the city at $1.4 million, recorded on June 15.

Zehler, 74, said last week that he bought the property for $355,000 in 1992. Over the years, England operated one of his Lucky’s convenience stores on the site along with a Citgo fuel station, before they cleared the site in 2018. Wawa briefly had the land under contract that same year, before Chipotle showed interest in the site.

6.18R Cowardin 2

From left, Mel Strine of Exxon, Tom England and John Zehler at the site in the 1990s. (Courtesy of John Zehler)

Zehler, a petroleum industry veteran who’s also dabbled in real estate over the years, said Dominion Energy had the land under contract last year, but that deal fell through.

Enter Harper Associates, a Richmond developer that’s already quite familiar with the intersection of Semmes and Cowardin avenues.

Harper’s working on a multi-phase townhome project, Belle Heights, around the corner at 1802 Semmes Ave. and earlier this year it bought an adjacent parcel at 406 Cowardin Ave., where it’s building a dialysis center.

 Will Allen, Harper’s asset manager, declined to comment on the Cowardin deal. But the plot is already being marketed for possible retail use. A flyer from Thalhimer is pitching it as a ground lease or build-to-suit site for up to about 14,000 square feet, with drive-thru capability. Reilly Marchant has the listing.

Meanwhile, catty-corner from Harper’s new land, a major apartment project from an Alabama developer is underway.

LIV Development is working on the 269-unit Jamestown Apartment Flats at 500 W. 14th St., and is nearing completion.

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Matt Merica
Matt Merica
3 years ago

The return on that $322k was not that good. Less than 7%
29 year “investment” that has a tax hit too.

Robert Wheatley
Robert Wheatley
2 years ago
Reply to  Matt Merica

Ha, ha! I just did that calculation, too! 5.95% before cap gains and all those real estate taxes for almost 30 years!

Shawn Harper
Shawn Harper
2 years ago
Reply to  Matt Merica

Dont forget to add in all the profit from the revenue generated from the site.

Don O'Keefe
Don O'Keefe
3 years ago

This is a very significant site which sits at the intersection of two important roads and acts as a visual conclusion from the Belvedere Bridge. It also has the potential to link the neighborhoods to the east and west and make walking between more pleasant. I would suggest a very high density residential building would make sense for this site. In the more distant future, when BRT or light rail serve Semmes, this density will also contribute to a TOD corridor (consistent with the new Masterplan). An off-the shelf drive through retail building would be a waste of this prominent… Read more »

Kevin McFadden
Kevin McFadden
3 years ago
Reply to  Don O'Keefe

Well Don, you should have purchased it then.

SA Chaplin
SA Chaplin
3 years ago
Reply to  Don O'Keefe

It is the Lee Bridge, Don.

Shawn Harper
Shawn Harper
2 years ago
Reply to  Don O'Keefe

BRT will serve Semmes?