N.Y. developers plotting Manchester’s tallest tower on riverfront next to Legend Brewing

Located just north of Legend Brewing Co., the site on nearly 3 acres of riverfront land is planned for two residential buildings. (BizSense file photo)

The would-be buyers of a piece of riverfront land in Manchester are looking to set a new high bar for density in the area, but at the expense of a beloved neighborhood view.

Brooklyn, New York-based Avery Hall Investments is planning to build a pair of residential towers reaching 11 and 17 stories at 301 W. Sixth St., where another developer once planned a twin-tower project called River’s Edge II.

Avery Hall’s 11-story, L-shaped building would be on the eastern end of the Sixth Street plot and house around 350 apartments. On the western end of the parcel closer to the Manchester Bridge, the firm is planning a 17-story tower that’d be the tallest high-rise in Manchester. That building is set to have around 175 units.

In total, Avery Hall is looking to add 525 units to the neighborhood, a count that’s 181 more than what River’s Edge II’s original developers first proposed in 2019. Those developers — Guy Blundon, Mark Purcell, Keith Woodard and Ludwig Kuttner — put the land, as well as the approved plans and permits for River’s Edge II, on the market in late 2021. By May, Avery Hall had it under contract.

Relative to the original River’s Edge II design, Avery Hall’s plan would more substantially obstruct the view from neighboring Legend Brewing Co.’s deck, which has offered a panorama of the city skyline and James River since 1994.

It wasn’t until last week at a meeting of the Manchester Alliance neighborhood association held coincidentally on Legend’s deck, that Avery Hall unveiled its scaled-up plans for the site.

Dave Gott, Legend’s vice president of operations and board member of the Manchester Alliance, said he much preferred the initial design of River’s Edge II, noting that Blundon’s group went out of their way to preserve as much of the view as possible with the design.

The view from Legend Brewing Co.’s deck would be impacted by the new project. (Mike Platania photos)

“We’re very disappointed that we’re going to be losing the majority of that view. I suspect a lot of Richmonders are, too,” Gott said last week.

Brian Ezra, a founding partner of Avery Hall, said they recognize that the change is significant and that they don’t make it lightheartedly.

“It’s a really great opportunity to create architecture with a capital ‘A’ that would have a very positive impact on Manchester and Richmond as a whole. We also recognize that comes with change and we’ll be as sensitive as we can be to that,” Ezra said. “We really, genuinely try to build the best buildings that’ll be as well-received as possible.”

Avery Hall has its own in-house architecture division, but Ezra said they typically hire an outside, local architecture firm to collaborate on the design for its buildings, an approach they plan to use with the Richmond project.

Other details of the buildings haven’t been decided yet, such as whether they’ll include any for-sale condo units or retail space. The group also hasn’t ironed out specifics regarding the layout and amount of parking, though Ezra noted that they do plan to have at least one parking spot per apartment unit.

The site’s RF-2 Riverfront zoning district caps building height at 13 stories, which would require Avery Hall to pursue a new entitlement for the project.

Founded in 2013, Avery Hall got its start developing smaller condo buildings with fewer than 40 units in its hometown of Brooklyn. Ezra said they eventually grew into working on larger apartment buildings and began looking outside of New York.

Plans for the initial River’s Edge II were filed in late 2019 but work never got underway.

He said migrations out of major cities during the pandemic in 2020 led them to Charlotte, North Carolina, where Avery Hall now has about 650 units in the pipeline. Richmond got on Avery Hall’s radar after company representatives stopped in town on the drive between Charlotte and Brooklyn a few times. Ezra said they see Richmond as the type of small-to-medium-sized city that’s poised for continued growth as more people look to leave major cities.

Avery Hall currently has about 2,000 units either under construction or completed in its portfolio.

In addition to views from Legend, Avery Hall’s first Richmond project would also impact the views of neighboring residential projects like Eagle Construction of VA’s McRae & Lacy townhome development, and 7West, a high-end townhome project from Jeremy Connell that was completed last year.

Homes in McRae & Lacy, many of which are still under construction, have sold thus far from $700,000-$850,000. 7West’s 12 units sold for $750,000 up to $1.3 million.

Kirk Johnson lives at McRae & Lacy with his wife Janet Woodka, who sits on the Manchester Alliance’s board. He said the view of the city and river was an absolute contributor in their decision to move to Manchester last February, noting that he was in favor of Blundon’s original design as he felt it struck a reasonable balance between adding density while also protecting Legend’s view.

“There’s a great opportunity for smart development of Manchester that takes advantage of all the neighborhood has to offer, that brings more growth and density, but not at the expense of businesses that have been there three decades,” Johnson said after last week’s Alliance meeting. “It’s extremely alarming and we’re not going to just sit idly by.”

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Jordan Smith
Jordan Smith
28 days ago

IMHO, if there’s available real estate closer towards the river, then anything built should have free will of design. Just as it wouldn’t be fair to obstruct views, it wouldn’t be fair to put a hold on to bigger opportunity either.

Last edited 28 days ago by Jordan Smith
Shawn Harper
Shawn Harper
28 days ago

mmmm-hmmmm….. “Smart Development” always seems to come up against “Smart Development” — they will both have a case — but the BIGGER issue from progressive viewpoints is ALWAYS more density in cities — both ideology-wise and economics and the way it plays out in the debates is Who Benefits?

Hopefully, this building will LOOK awesome — I’ve been waiting for new Richmond buildings that look better than “Good Enough” or “Okay” for a long time. Can’t wait to see the drawings.

Bruce Milam
Bruce Milam
28 days ago

Thousands of apartments filled with hungry, thirsty residents are on the way to Manchester. Don’t cry for Legends. View or not, that deck is going to be worth a fortune. Brown Ale sales are due for a big boost. I wish they sold shares of stock!

Julie Duggan
Julie Duggan
28 days ago
Reply to  Bruce Milam

Legends will lose out. Fewer customers will travel across the river to go there, since there are plenty of other breweries closer to home. Also, it’s a loss to everyone in Manchester who enjoys the view of the skyline from their neighborhood brewery.

Joseph Berselli
Joseph Berselli
28 days ago
Reply to  Julie Duggan

I’m going to disagree with this sentiment. Why would manchester residents no longer go to Legends if the view were to go away? Do you think they have subpar food or beer? Is a view all they have to offer? Basic city doesn’t have a view, the brewery in the Current development does not have a view nor does it have outdoor space? Legends is also one of the few places in Manchester to eat. There’s the hatch local, continental, the Manchester table…2 pizza places ironclad and LA Vera I think….a McDonald’s and a coming Chipotle. Legends literally is one… Read more »

Shawn Harper
Shawn Harper
14 days ago
Reply to  Julie Duggan

Most Richmonders I encounter these days DON’T EVEN KNOW that Legend is THERE!! I remember complaining years ago at Galaxy Diner that Legend, which they served in bottles, was NOT on their Local list. Server thought it was funny. I mentioned it to the now owner of Busky Cider when he was still looking for a location and he rolled his eyes, saying it was clear that hipsters discriminated against even local beers when they achieved a certain degree of sustainablity and success. I have no idea, but I would GUESS that their restaurant is doing great — getting people… Read more »

Don O'Keefe
Don O'Keefe
28 days ago

Perhaps Legend could lease space for a new tasting room with a view in the new complex, leaving their brewing operations where they are. It doesn’t make any sense to me that a building would be contorted to preserve their view. If you buy a building a block from the a park, the ocean, or anything else, and there is an empty lot in between, you are not entitled to a permanent view. The most important thing is that the new buildings be of good quality. Also, plenty of people drink in the patio at the Veil, Hardywood, and all… Read more »

Peter James
Peter James
24 days ago
Reply to  Don O'Keefe

Don – fully agreed on all points. Very well said! 👍 Legends has a golden opportunity to partake in what would be a win-win for both the brewery AND the developer. Avery Hall is from NYC – where real estate deals that benefit both developers and legacy businesses are brokered ALLLL THEEE TIMEEEE!! I firmly believe that all it requires is a few phone calls, a few sit downs – and unquestionably a deal could be worked out that would bring home the best of both worlds to the developer (having a built-in high-volume, popular, brand-name establishment as part of… Read more »

Michael P Morgan-Dodson
Michael P Morgan-Dodson
28 days ago

Hate to see the view go but as others have said it is a buildable lot and no established viewshed easement. I do laugh (and article mentions it) that they will have to go BACK to the city to get approval now that the design, layout, and height have changed (and is above the zoning allowance). Obviously they did NOT do their homework on RVA’s permitting office. At least they knew NOT to give an opening year for their project. Any guesses folks? Do I year 2026, 2027 or later.

Eric Viking
Eric Viking
28 days ago

These were my thoughts exactly. This is nowhere near breaking ground if they have to get it rezoned. Hate that it’s this way, but have no confidence in the City permitting office and rezoning process to get this done before the end of this year.

Stephen Weisensale
Stephen Weisensale
28 days ago
Reply to  Eric Viking

They will likely require an SUP for the 17-story part, not rezoning. Meanwhile, they can permit the 11-story building under the current zoning and proceed with that. It will likely be a phased development anyway.

John Hamilton
John Hamilton
28 days ago

Why no t incorporate a connection to Legend including a roof top or other space .with a view in one of the buildings

Fred Squire
Fred Squire
28 days ago

I vote 2027 for TCO, with an option to say 2029 if a casino gets a round 2 vote. Wouldn’t be surprised if Stoney asks this time to put the casino in the middle of the river.

But for Legend, just run a roof top bar in the new building. Nashville, Charleston, etc are killing it with roof top bars.

Only Richmonders would be a proponent of leaving it a parking lot so it looks like good ole Richmond.

Shawn Harper
Shawn Harper
27 days ago
Reply to  Fred Squire

Preach!

Melvin Howard
Melvin Howard
28 days ago

I think change is good and I don’t see where the alliance was when we were living in the link apartments and they built a 10 story luxury apartment building right in our view. I didn’t like it at first but it is the cost of progress. They will get more customers and the view of a growing city…they will survive. If they could go higher they would not need both buildings…perhaps that would be an awesome option. You can’t expect things to stay the way they were 30 years ago if you want to experience true growth…strike a deal… Read more »

Roger Turner
Roger Turner
27 days ago
Reply to  Melvin Howard

It stinks they “lose their view” but unless you own all the land between you and the River I don’t feel like you have a legitimate complaint. That point of the river is about 20 feet above sea level. I live about 10 miles away and am close to 300ft above sea level. Theoretically if nobody would have built between me and the River I would have a great view. I realize that is being a bit sarcastic but if the Richmond population doubles in the next 50 years people are going to have to learn to live much more… Read more »

Will Willis
Will Willis
28 days ago

Awesome, Now they should build a park at the old train turn that is not being used anymore next to the end of the floodwall and the bridge and then the canal there should be restored to look like the canal walk on the north side of the river and connecting to the flood wall it would be a huge green space plus draw for that area.

Bruce Milam
Bruce Milam
27 days ago
Reply to  Will Willis

There are 8 acres of buildable land at that spot. If we want another park, then the public should buy Mayo Island.

Will Willis
Will Willis
27 days ago
Reply to  Bruce Milam

Richmond’s 2012 Riverfront plan did call for these area to become a park called Manchester Green check out slides 44-49 would be awesome if they followed through with those plans http://mlkcommission.dls.virginia.gov/meetings/2013/richmondriverfrontplan.pdf

Shawn Harper
Shawn Harper
27 days ago

Where’s Scott Burger?? Can’t this be spun into some kind of genocidal atrocity for our amusemnt???

Cynthia Oliver
Cynthia Oliver
27 days ago
Reply to  Shawn Harper

Hahahaaha!

Peter James
Peter James
27 days ago
Reply to  Shawn Harper

I was wondering about that myself. Isn’t there some fallacious & completely ridiculous argument that needs to be made that a pair of residential towers in Manchester will somehow lead to the futher degredation of Oregon Hill? (I can’t eyeroll or facepalm hard enough…)

Shawn Harper
Shawn Harper
26 days ago
Reply to  Peter James

That’s something maybe you can educate me about — has Oregon Hill been “degredated” in some objective way? When I moved here from NYS, a college friend had bought a small house there bc he was a professor at VCU then, and I went to that neighborhood a bit and thought that there was not all that much to ruin, and much that could use a makeover. Much of that neighborhood was 1. Cheaply built and 2. Sorta run-down. Unless this is some kind of “anti-gentifrication” argument, which always makes me throw up my hands and walk away, since up… Read more »

Peter James
Peter James
24 days ago
Reply to  Shawn Harper

Shawn – very well said all the way around. 👍 You hit on exactly the point. Oregon Hill HASN’T been degredated by other development. It’s an insipid, fallacious NIMBY mindset that unfortunately runs rampant in this city. Witness the tom-foolery that occurred last year in the Fan District with neighborhood associations practically soiling themselves fighting against the prospect of 20-story building being built NORTH of Broad Street (during the fight over whether to upzone W. Broad either TOD-1 (transit oriented – height limit of 12 stories) or B4 (central business district – no actual height restriction but a 4:1 inclination/step… Read more »

Shawn Harper
Shawn Harper
27 days ago

There is some truth to this, and I feel bad not so much for Legend but for those who bought residences with views in mind.

But this building will have LOTS of views — more than currently exist I think.

If one were designing this city from the ground up, it would certainly make sense to have stepped up zoning.

Alejandro Andrade
Alejandro Andrade
24 days ago

I think that knocking down this development deal to preserve the views Legends has isn’t the way to go. What may be a better idea is putting Legends as a rooftop bar maybe on one of the buildings? That way the buildings would get built and Legends would get a boost, both in height and a new 360 degree view! I am definitely in support of the new heights and new development.

Shawn Harper
Shawn Harper
14 days ago

I was just going to propose this. Look, I don’t live there and I don’t have an interest in this. It IS a great view and if the Richmond skyline ever gets interesting it is going to be a better one — (Richmond fills in for Stamford, CT in Dopesick, BTW) — here is some things that could help Legend — as you say, they could get a rooftop location near their brewing — I always want EVERYONE to win, and personally, I think NY money getting dumped in Richmond is a VERY. GOOD. THING. — and also having more… Read more »