Swath of Manchester up for grabs as former UPS office building set to hit the market

TForce Freight is putting its Richmond headquarters at 1000 Semmes Ave. up for sale. (Mike Platania photos)

The work-from-home trend may soon free up a big chunk of Manchester real estate.

TForce Freight is preparing to list its Richmond headquarters at 1000 Semmes Ave. for sale, according to multiple sources familiar with the matter.

The nine-story office tower and its accompanying parking deck take up the entire city block near the on-ramp to the Manchester Bridge.

TForce, owned by Canada-based trucking giant TFI International, recently told employees it no longer needs the 226,000-square-foot building due to so many of them working remotely. That’s according to a message sent to employees and viewed by BizSense. The company refers to the Semmes building as its Richmond General Office.

“After an extensive analysis, we’ve determined it’s in our company’s best interest to relocate the Richmond General Office within the coming years,” the message stated, adding that an exact date for the transition has yet to be determined.

Sources say that around 600 employees once worked in the Semmes building before the pandemic, but only a few dozen workers have been in the building lately while the bulk of TForce’s staff works from home.

The memo suggests that TFI is looking to keep the building’s operations in the Richmond area.

“We’re currently evaluating where our new home office will be located. In addition, we’re actively researching a new location in the area to meet the needs the G.O. support team provides to our operations,” the memo stated.

The company’s pending move could mean a change for more than just the office building property.

TFI also owns an additional three blocks adjacent to the office tower that are currently used as surface parking lots or green areas. Those parcels are at 1100 McDonough St., 1100 Semmes Ave. and 1001 Perry St. There is one connected sliver it doesn’t own: a house on 0.1 acres at 1006 McDonough St.

In total, the company controls 8 acres of land that’s valued by the city at $23.8 million in Manchester. It’s unclear whether the accompanying three blocks are part of the listing.

A TFI International spokesperson said the company won’t be commenting on the matter.

It’s also unclear whether the Semmes building would be eyed for redevelopment or a tear-down. It has long been used as office space for logistics and trucking companies, but the name on the building has changed a few times over the last two decades.

Local firm Overnite Transportation had operated there until its 2005 sale to UPS. After that deal Overnite became UPS Freight and operated in the building for much of the next 15 years.

In early 2021, TFI International, a publicly traded trucking company based in Montreal, announced its acquisition of UPS Freight for $800 million. Since then, the TFI’s TForce Freight brand has operated in the Manchester office building.

TForce Freight controls three blocks surrounding the building that total 6 acres.

The campus is among the dozens of acres of Manchester land once owned by Overnite Transportation’s late founder Harwood Cochrane. In the early 1990s, Cochrane donated around 30 acres in the neighborhood to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts Foundation, which then sold much of that land in the mid-2000s to local developers.

Robin Miller and Dan Gecker’s Urban Development Associates bought the bulk of the land from VMFA and has either developed it themselves or sold it to other firms that have done the same.

Charles Macfarlane’s Macfarlane Partners was another local development firm that bought Overnite-turned-VMFA land and used it to build mixed-use apartment buildings and duplex townhomes.

Macfarlane said he’s particularly interested to see what may come of the TForce office building.

“If (TFI) thinks there’s significant value in the office building, then they’d want to market that first and find out what the need is for that,” Macfarlane said. “The question is, is there someone in the market that needs that much office space in that location?”

As for the other three blocks, Macfarlane said such a large amount of land being in play could be significant for the neighborhood.

“It’s in the heart of Manchester and certainly the full blocks are efficient parcels and they have infrastructure to them, it’s not like it’s got a lot of hair on them,” Macfarlane said.

“If you’re looking at some of the more dense development in Manchester and Scott’s Addition, they’re doing 200, 250 units per acre. So this could be as many as 2,000 units, potentially. Conceivably, if you’re going up 15, 16 stories, it could be more, but it would certainly require a lot of capital and a long-term horizon to see it developed.”

Macfarlane said he thinks the listing is likely to draw plenty of interest, and he’s curious to see whether one big buyer would make a move or if the land would be sold in pieces. He said his firm is intrigued by the latter.

“We’re not in a position to take the whole thing,” Macfarlane said. “But certainly we’d be interested in a portion of it.”

Bruce Milam of Bruce Commercial Realty has been brokering deals in the city for decades, including the nearby, record-setting sale of the River’s Edge II site to Avery Hall Investments. Milam said he suspects if the entirety of TFI’s land goes on the market, a request for proposals would be sent out.

Milam said a large institutional investor could come in and plan something mixed use that takes advantage of the Semmes Avenue frontage.

He also said the size of the lots would be adequate for something long sought after in Manchester.

“That’s a pretty good size acreage for a grocery store with apartments above, because the parking is there for it,” Milam said. “I could see someone wanting to do that, instead of doing 800 or 900 apartments there. It’d be really nice to have something there to draw and be a magnet for all of the Manchester area.”

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Ryan Perry
Ryan Perry
25 days ago

Finally! Bring us something good.

Bruce Milam
Bruce Milam
25 days ago

The repurposing of Manchester is just beginning. CoStars purchase of the SunTrust Building and its hinted at plans to build affordable housing has already put some focus on the 1200 block of Semmes. But there’s less than two acres undeveloped there. Now there’s this opportunity for an ambitious company to devour nearly 8 acres of existing building and parking lots directly across the street from CoStar. A major transformation of that 10-12 acre area looms. It doesn’t have the glitz of the Rivers Edge site but as it sits on that ridge line of Semmes Avenue, the possibilities are even… Read more »

Nathaniel Walsh
Nathaniel Walsh
24 days ago
Reply to  Bruce Milam

I just don’t get it. Manchester and Scott’s addition are quickly becoming soulless forests of buildings. They all look homogeneous and sterile. Soon there’ll be barely a speck of undeveloped land in either neighborhood. Yet people from other areas, especially Northern Virginia, can’t wait to move down and sign leases. What on earth is the appeal?

Jeff Ensley
Jeff Ensley
24 days ago

I’d argue Manchester has become much less soulless as the vacant lots and single story warehouses these new buildings are built on have been disappearing.

Bob Lichious
Bob Lichious
24 days ago

What does undeveloped land do for affordable housing? Nothing.

Brian Glass
Brian Glass
25 days ago

How about the possibility of adaptive re-use for some form of workforce housing, which is badly needed in Richmond.

David Humphrey
David Humphrey
25 days ago
Reply to  Brian Glass

Honestly adaptive reuse to transform an office building into residential can be just as expensive (or even more so) than building new. Adding all the new plumbing alone is a major expense. It can be done, but is not inexpensive so not necessarily a good option for workforce housing.

Additionally, not every office building lends itself to a transition to quality residential units. Sometimes it is tough to get windows to all bedrooms/spaces among other design issues.

Brian Ezzelle
Brian Ezzelle
24 days ago
Reply to  Brian Glass

The building is straight out of the 1970s, the HVAC fails every summer, the elevators on the old side are still controlled by vacuum tubes (which actually perform better than the new side elevators which are controlled by circuit boards), the ventilation system is a mess, and its not very ADA compliant.

Brian King
Brian King
20 days ago

Another contribution to the “Urban Doom Loop” in the real estate industry. Yet, Richmond is already in the throes of underperforming real estate – thanks to VCU and “The State” occupying huge tracts of untaxed land. Hopefully something profitable will take over.